Dicey Dungeons is a game we’ve been peripherally aware of for quite a while due to following Niamh Houston aka Chipzel on Musk’s hellsite. That’s off the back of her contribution to Chime Sharp. Man, we love Chime Sharp almost as much as we loved Chime on the 360 and latterly Chime Super Deluxe on PS3. What makes Chipzel’s work particularly notable is the fact she uses Gameboys to create her music.
Being a previous contributor to the work of designer Terry Cavanagh aka Distractionware; he of VVVVVV and Super Hexagon and rather more unusually, a Roblox Obby (aka obstacle course); Chipzel also provides the maddeningly catchy music and the sound effects to Dicey Dungeons.
Dicey Dungeons came out on conventional computer formats in August 2019, Switch in late 2020, Xbox in late 2021 and finally on PS4/PS5 in February this year. We picked it up on Xbox to begin with but barely played it due to it not being our daily driver console anymore. Since we moved house, we haven’t even plugged in the Xbox One in fact.
Our pals at Ratalaika did the console port and we may have nagged them a bit for a PlayStation port. Our wishes came to pass, though we did hold out for a sale due to our double dipping on two formats. To be honest, we’re so obsessed with Dicey Dungeons that if we still used our Switch, we’d no doubt pick it up on that too. But since we stopped getting the train to London every day, we’ve barely touched it. Even our kid isn’t interested anymore. Heck, we’re so obsessed we’re contemplating buying the US version of Dicey Dungeons on our alt account purely to stack it. We’ve got it bad.
Dicey Dungeons then. It’s bloody excellent. Habit forming with that just one more go factor nailed. This includes the base game, the Halloween special and the reunion game mode. At the time of writing, we’ve put in forty-five hours. Yes, almost two actual days since we began playing on 28th April.
The titular dungeon is run by Lady Luck and you are an anthropomorphic walking dice stuck in said dungeon. It’s presented as a game show you find yourself entered in, only Ms Luck isn’t particularly honest in her claim of potentially granting your freedom when you win a mode. At the outset you’ll only have one class available, that being the warrior. Each of the six classes you unlock has a very unique feel. The fantastic thing is that the dev has the concept refined so well, that the modifiers for each successive round type make for a different game altogether, even across the same class. It’s amazing.
As you explore you’ll encounter the denizens of the dungeon who also seem destined to spend eternity in the catacombs. They’ll even start to chat with you when you encounter them on successive runs. This is helped by the excellent script written by Holly Gramazio that can even make you fond of your opponents. It’s almost like when Westley and Inigo fight in The Princess Bride, “I hate to beat you!” We also felt bad for one mute enemy who never manages to get a hit on us due to the fact he’s got a counter that starts at 999 and he’s doomed to never land a blow.
When you beat an enemy, you’ll gain experience points on a sliding logarithmic scale. Though to be maximum level come the final stage and ultimate boss of each run, you’ll need to beat every enemy in the dungeon. This is all well and good until you face certain enemies during the modified ruleset episodes. The kraken that curses and blinds you for example is a huge prick. And the less said about the wisp who has the vanish ability that gets rid of your duplicate dice, the better. You’ll be in good shape to beat them but then a run of them getting the dice roll their way means you’ll soon be on the back foot.
Despite that, it does feel like the enemies are privy to the same random number generator as you are when it comes to dice rolls. You can also exploit the traits of some opponents such as the bully. He’s so fixated on a particular attack, that if you use an interrupt on it, he’ll waste a high value die to use that instead of a more powerful attack.
As well as experience points, you’ll unlock new items, some more useful than others. Two of the more advanced classes, the witch and the inventor require you to sacrifice an existing item upon picking up new one. As a result, you’ll sometimes find yourself weighing up the future usefulness going forward.
The items themselves are often dependent on specific conditions, like whether a dice is odd or even or above a certain value. It plays out a little like a turn-based card battler, but you also have to be mindful of dice economy. Sometimes it’s worth taking the hit from a die affected by a negative effect to get a decent debuff on your enemy. Also each class has a limit break special that is only available when you take damage, but opponents like the wisp can render them virtually useless in the case of the class that gives you four identical low value dice. Three will instantly disappear you see?
As well as the design, script and music being excellent, the art by Oregon based artist Marlowe Dobbe is great and very distinctive too. This imbues each of the dice and opponents with so much more character than average games of this type like Pirates Outlaws that we reviewed the other month. The snowman enemy also has the bonus effect of creeping out our kid, his words: ‘he’s weird, he looks too realistic.’
It shows the depth of obsession that we’ve got with regard to Dicey Dungeons that we have to fight the urge to write an encyclopaedic review here. We could easily come up with another thousand words on top of those we already have but have to stop ourselves. In conclusion, Dicey Dungeons is excellent and you should get on it as soon as you’re able.
+ Maddeningly catchy music
+ A great blend of dice games and card battlers
- Some enemies abilities are horrible to face with the wrong class
- Why’d it take so long to hit PlayStation?