Only now, as I am writing this, do I realize the name “Dicey Dungeons” is a double entendre: The dungeon itself is dangerous, littered with creative and quirky enemies, ranging from a buff snowman, a blood-sucking vacuum cleaner, a flaming marshmallow, a tiny frog with a giant sword or a porcupine with bad allergies; but the characters themselves are, quite literally walking, talking dice from the get-go.
This charming game, developed and published by Irish video game designer Terry Cavanagh, is similar to “Slay The Spire,” another roguelike deckbuilding game. Gameplay follows as such: Players are plunged into a deadly game show hosted by the Goddess of Fortune herself, Lady Luck, where they pick from six different heroes, who all have their own unique playstyle. Players roam through the dungeon map picking and choosing their battles, and once in battle they roll dice and match up with equipment cards to attack, defend, heal and improve their odds. They do this, picking up new items and leveling up along the way, until they get to the sixth floor of the dungeon and fight the boss.
That’s the basic rundown of the gameplay, but there’s so much more depth to it: As you level up, you can gain extra dice to increase your max amount of actions per turn; within the shops and treasure chests on each dungeon floor, you can obtain new equipment for your arsenal, upgrade existing equipment or, in some cases, copy equipment so you can have more than one of the same card. Different characters warrant different playstyles and strategies, forcing you to think on your feet and further adapt how you play with each new dive into the dungeon.
There are six playable characters who are each progressively harder to play than the last, introducing new mechanics into gameplay once unlocked. The Warrior specializes in raw damage output, with the ability to reroll dice to ensure the highest values possible; while the Thief specializes in rolling as many low values as possible to frequently chip away at enemy health while also stealing enemy equipment to enable more options in a fight.
On paper, “Dicey Dungeons” is a simple and fun excursion, but investing more time and attention into this game reveals its complex and rewarding nature. There are six characters, but each one has six different episodes that introduce a fixed modifier or scenario, which makes for 36 unique runs through the dungeon.
The game bolsters a cute art style, paired with funny and lighthearted dialogue from its characters. I’ve invested about 14 hours into the game and have completed only eight out of 36 episodes, so I have yet to learn whether our heroes survive and escape this game show from hell.
Now, the music of “Dicey Dungeons” is simply phenomenal. Its chiptune, or 8-bit style, soundtrack is sealed into my mental hall of fame for video game soundtracks. While playing this game, I noticed I was visibly bouncing my leg or bobbing my head to the beat of each song. The soundtrack vaguely reminds me of the 2015 indie hit “Undertale,” which also sports an impressive chiptune soundtrack. Overall, the music of “Dicey Dungeons” is catchy, energizing and constantly keeps you immersed in the game. Both in and out of fights, the music, sound and visual effects all mentally prepare you for the battle ahead.
“Dicey Dungeons” excels in just about every area: It has an in-depth combat system, which is both simple and complex but rewarding, and an exciting soundtrack that immerses the player into gameplay. It carries so much content and variability that it should probably be worth more than its $15 retail price. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend this game is simply if you are not interested in the roguelike genre. But if you are, and this review has piqued your interest, then this game is sure to scratch the itch of a roguelike deckbuilder. Whether you’re looking for something to pass the time, or want to invest time into a great solo experience, “Dicey Dungeons” is a worthy addition to your library.