App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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NOTE:Yokai Dungeon is a free-to-play game that offers a one-time purchase of $3.99 to remove ads that auto-play between stages and you can trigger to unlock extra store items.
I’m all for unique takes on roguelite dungeon-crawlers. In order to stand out in this well worn genre, you need to take some risks. By that token, I’m glad Yokai Dungeon exists. It definitely isn’t like any other game I’ve played before. That said, I’m wish I could love it a little more than I do. Some very basic control issues stand in the way of Yokai Dungeon’s greatness.
Yokai Dungeon’s dungeon-crawling feels almost like an old school arcade game in both presentation and execution. You choose a character and then wander through bright, pixel art environments, killing every enemy in a room before being allowed to move on to the next one.
The unique twist comes in how you kill enemies. Instead of having a sword or other weapon to take down foes, you push objects in the dungeon to smush your opponents against walls. Whenever you push an object—whether its a pot, bush, lantern, etc.—it moves in a straight line until it hits a wall. The key to defeating enemies in Yokai Dungeon is to time pushes so to make sure they’ll make contact with your foe and smash them to pieces.
There’s a lot to like about Yokai Dungeon. In addition to its unique mechanics, the game has a lively atmosphere inspired by Japanese folklore. Additionally, the enemy design in this game transforms battles into a kind of puzzle game. Some enemies jump. Others might spawn new enemies. Depending on the mix of enemies in a room, you really have to think about how you want to push things to make sure you don’t take too much damage and end your run.
Speaking of runs, Yokai Dungeon follow the standard protocol for roguelites. You progress through procedurally-generated dungeons with a set boss at the end of each one. If you die at any point while playing, you have to start over from the beginning. The only thing you keep between runs is coins, which you can spend to unlock new characters with slightly different stats. These additional characters don’t really feel like they change up the experience all that much, but working to unlock them all adds some replayability to the game.
The devil’s in the details
Conceptually, I love almost everything about Yokai Dungeon. I wish the unlockable characters felt a little more different from each other, and that there were more progression hooks in the game. If you could keep gear from stores between runs, for example, or hold more than one piece of gear at a time, that would probably be enough to make the game feel more engaging over multiple play sessions.
As much as I like the base concept for Yokai Dungeon, I don’t have as much fun playing it as I would like to, mainly because of the game’s controls. I’m not completely opposed to virtual controls, but something about the on-screen d-pad in this game feels off. Yokai Dungeon also offers a swipe-based control system, but that doesn’t exactly feel right either. Using both control schemes, I found myself regularly dying on runs specifically because they controls didn’t respond the way I expected them to. It’s a real bummer.
The bottom line
Yokai Dungeon gets just about everything right, but that’s all for naught when it’s not a fun game to control. If an update came and provided more options or tweaked the current configurations, I’d pick it back up in a heartbeat. It’s a really neat and original game. I just wish it felt better to play.