Dead Dungeon: A Fitting Homage to Classic Platformers

Dead Dungeon might be the most aptly named game in existence. It’s a short, snappy, little platformer that requires pixel-perfect movement in order to traverse its 50 levels while gathering deviously placed collectibles along the way. It’s also a game where you’ll die. A lot.

With only two controls needed, one for movement and one for jumping, the game thrusts your tiny block character into a dungeon full of traps, spinning saw blades, projectiles, roving enemies and myriad other hazards. Touch one and the level resets, with your character exploding into a cartoonish blast of blood.

That scenario happens on an almost constant basis, something that the developers clearly intended based on the near instantaneous level reset. In fact, one of the leader board categories is the fewest number of deaths.

Twitch reflexes and the ability to double-jump at strategic times are the only tools you have at your disposal to avoid the death toll climbing higher, and at the time of writing, only one person on the Switch version’s leader board had triple-digit deaths. You read that right. The second-fewest deaths on the leader board was more than 1,000.

The bottom line is this: If you love platformers, you’ll enjoy Dead Dungeon. If you don’t love — and I mean absolutely love — platformers, this game is most likely going to frustrate you in the worst way. Level designs are deceptive in their simplicity, and it’s easy to think that the first couple levels mean things will be a walk in the park; the third level almost made me quit entirely.

It’s amazing how the developers took a handful of obstacles and repurposed them so cleverly and sadistically. Spike traps fiendishly placed to narrow corridors, saw blades oscillating back and forth and enemies ambling on a narrow platform you have to reach somehow manage to feel fresh and new every level.

The charming artwork does a great job bringing life to each level without creating visual distractions, keeping the focus on smooth gameplay. At the same time, an outstanding sound track hearkening back to classic platformers in the 8-bit generation with some modern twists is every bit as enjoyable as playing the game itself.

Dead Dungeon is reasonably priced, easy to jump into and absurdly hard to beat. It’s a game worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre, but if you’re someone who’s easily frustrated, you’ll never see its end.

Dead Dungeon earns 3 GiN Gems out of 5. If you fancy yourself a master platformer, Dead Dungeon will be up for the challenge.

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