There are a few gameplay genres and visual styles which are very, very common these days. In terms of genres, we have a huge amount of rogue-lite and mobile phone/table ports and visually we have tonnes of ‘pixel-art’ style games. If I was to say to you, name your best rogue-lite Pixel-art style game then I imagine a lot of you would instantly say Rogue Legacy, although some of you will have others like Xenon Valkyrie+ or one of the many others which are on the digital stores. However, here comes a new rogue-lite pixel-art style mobile phone port, from Ratalaika Games, which is now my personal favourite rogue-lite game on both the Vita and the PS4.
Devious Dungeon is a cross-buy title with two platinums for a single price, which gives you access to both the PS Vita and PS4 versions upon purchase. It differs from some rogue-lite games in that it’s very forgiving and doesn’t strip you of all of your loot upon death. The game is super addictive and, with its random nature, can lead to many hours of fun and frustration. The question is though, why do I now suddenly prefer to play this game instead of the amazing Rogue Legacy as one of my ‘short burst’ games on the go? Let’s find out…
Due to the nature of Devious Dungeon, the story doesn’t matter. All I know is you’re in the King’s castle at the beginning and you have been sent on a quest to enter mystical portals and fend off evil beings as you grind your way to victory. That’s ‘grind’ as is level up and collect loot – not rub yourself up against all of the opposing creatures! Upon death, which I’ll come to later, or at the beginning of the game/save, you are in the lively castle – the King has a trusty dog by his side, something you don’t see too often, and is constantly mocking his Jester for being useless – so nothing new there then. You can purchase weapons at this point, but I’ll touch on that in a bit – your first point of interest is the mystical portal which whisks you off to an unknown (randomly generated) level.
Upon entering the portal, you are given the stage select, every three levels or so – or when you encounter a boss – the game creates a new warp-to’ point which you can use to continue from should you chose to do so. The purpose of each level is simple – defeat the enemies, find the key, then find the door to open so you can jump into the portal behind it. Simple. Well, it would be if this wasn’t a rogue-lite game where everything is literally out to kill you and the enemies progressively become stronger than you.
You also have a list of ‘bonus missions’ to complete. Upon pressing ‘Options’, you will see three missions, which are usually the “kill X amount of Y” format, which rotates upon completion. Each one will give you a monetary reward. I rarely looked at these yet I still achieved loads during my playthroughs as you get them naturally by killing everything you see.
This is where the rogue-lite elements come into play. When you die, which you will do many times, you instantly respawn back at the castle with all of your loot you have just picked up on your journey. Once here, you can access the store and purchase new weapons, armour, accessories or potions in order to boost your stats. Once you’re all geared up, jump back into the portal and face your foes once more! Only, if you jump into the same level you were just on – let’s say 1:3 – then you will notice the level is completely different in design and threat level as the game is fully procedurally generated.
The storekeeper also crops up everytime you hit the three-level checkpoint as well, so you can upgrade your gear without having to die every time. One of the differences here is that any gold you don’t spend will simply go with you as you venture out again and again. You don’t have to pay anyone like you do in Rogue Legacy, and you don’t lose any of your spoils for taking a second chance. Which is cool! It means that if you slip up and stupidly die, you don’t have to worry about grinding again. This also makes this game pretty easy as death isn’t a worry, it’s just an annoyance.
On top of purchasing new gear, your character also levels up as you gain experience from slaying the monsters. This also isn’t reset, like in Neon Chrome, it allows you to literally replay the same level over and over, as you level up and buy new gear until you can successfully move on. Levelling up gives you three choices, boost your health, armour, or dexterity – you get to choose one of these and then it’s back to the slaughter-fest. Gaining experience is really easy as well – simply killing the evil-ones will give you a little bit of XP or you can search for secret areas which contain chests and experience books which offer a tonne of gold or XP – in relation to what you would get from killing baddies.
The only issue I have with the whole upgrade process, which isn’t really that bad but I have seen some people complain and I can see their point, is the way the purchasable weapons and equipment works. When you visit the store, you aren’t given a selection of all of the weapons or gear on offer – you are given access to the next one on the list. For example, let’s say there are 25 swords to buy and you have the first one. You can’t even see what swords 3-25 are or even what their price is, all you can see is sword number two with its price. For me, I didn’t really have an issue with this as I was happy just upgrading one at a time, but some people are saying it ruins the rogue-lite experience as you don’t have access to fully choose what you want to wear or weld. You are simply picking the next one in line which usually offers a boost in something but it can also be lower in another area – for example, some of the swords are stronger but slower.
This is why I said this game feels a lot easier than your usually rogue-lite games. It’s like the Mystic Quest of Final Fantasy games.
Graphically we have the dreaded Pixel-art syle once more! I’m not going to get into how I feel about that as I have done so many times before, but I didn’t find it distracting or a decrement to the gameplay. The game looks great on the Vita’s screen and everything still looks decent when blown up on the TV via the PS4. Usually, my main complaint about pixel-art games is that on the TV they look more blocky than Minecraft, and Vita ports on the PS4 have massive UIs because they haven’t been scaled correctly. Devious Dungeon looks good on whatever platform you choose to play it on. It’s also really well animated and all the sprites look great. Your character also changes his visual appearance when you equip new gear – I know this isn’t much but some games don’t.
The music is equally as good, with the perfect mood-setting tracks and a decent amount of different tunes. The sound effects are also satisfying – it’s nothing special but the slashes and impact hits all sound spot on and on-par with other games in the genre.
Oh, just in case you missed it, this game is one price for the Vita and PS4 versions with a double platinum and with a random level generator – so a second playthrough on the other platform feels completely different. Also, there is a Devious Dungeon 2 on the mobile devices app stores, so hopefully we will see that soon as well!
Devious Dungeon is a rogue-lite-lite game. It has many traits from other rouge-lite games, such as Rogue Legacy, but some of the mechanics are watered down to a point where the game feels easy and more accessible for players new to the genre. With it’s great attention to detail as your character changes his look as you buy new gear, to the randomly generated levels which are full of secrets and fiendish beings, every level feels fresh and new – even if you replay the same level. You must be warned though, Devious Dungeon is super addictive so you may end up playing for hours and not even realising it! Considering you get both the PS4 and the Vita versions, complete with two platinums, for one low price – this is another game which shouldn’t be missed by anyone.
- Accessible for people of all skill levels and a great intro to the rogue-lite genre
- loads of weapons, armour and accessories to buy and equip
- Randomly generated levels - so no two levels will be the same
- Highly detailed models, even though it's in pixel-art style
- Double platinum via the Cross-buy on PS Vita and PS4
- Fans of the genre may find it a bit too easy
- Throwaway story
- Not much depth to the gameplay