[This is a guest review by SirNiko. Originally posted on TIGForums.]
I finished Deadly Rooms of Death: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder and the bonus dungeon “Flood Warning”. This is a great series, but this entry is a little disappointing. I feel it’s my duty to outline it for those who haven’t played.
For those that are new to DROD, Deadly Rooms of Death is a puzzle game wherein you move the player around a grid-based world, killing monsters by carefully moving to hit them with your sword while keeping them from catching you and killing you in revenge. The result feels a little bit like chess meets the Adventures of Lolo. The game is broken into multiple levels, each of which contains roughly a dozen rooms. Slaying all the monsters in a room “clears” it, sometimes unlocking doors or allowing passage to new rooms. Clearing levels is required to advance the game. The experience is entirely cerebral.
Gunthro and the Epic Blunder is the fourth game in the main series, not counting some expansion-pack style bonus dungeons and DROD RPG, which more closely resembles Tower of the Sorcerer. The story is a prequel that takes place between DROD 1 and 2. Mechanically, the game is the easiest of the lot. This is in sharp contrast to the rapidly scaling difficulty of the previous games.
If you’re wondering why this is only going up now rather than last week when the game was released, it’s because every time I go to write about it I decide to play just one more quick game and soon an hour’s gone by. Take that as a hell of a recommendation – DROD RPG is good. Really, really good.
Perhaps I’m a little biased, though. I’m a huge fan of the DROD series – for me it’s a pinnacle of good level design; as many people have said, it probably is the best puzzle series ever made. (At the very least, it’s the best series of puzzle games that I’ve ever played). There’s a strange word caravel games use an awful lot that I think explains it: “lynchpin”. The idea is that a good puzzle should have a lynchpin solution; that it only seems difficult until you step back and look at it the right way – at which point the solution becomes obvious and you feel brilliant for having thought of it. It’s that feeling that repeats itself so often in their puzzle games that makes them so satisfying to play: and that approach to game design, essentially, is why DROD RPG is so good too.
DROD RPG is a big departure for Caravel Games – actually it’s the first game they’ve released that isn’t another puzzle game – but it manages to bring the same design approach to a new genre in a really interesting way. You frequently feel like you’re up against insurmountable odds, but if you plan your approach and think things through, you always just manage to pull through. And it’s so satisfying when you do.
(One last thing: If you’re already a DROD fan, then you might be interested in knowing that there’s a new smitemaster selection out – Devilishly Dangerous Dungeons of Doom. I’ve played it, and… well, it’s hard. Really hard. Even by DROD standards. But worth a look!)
Erik Hermansen at Caravel Games wrote to let me know that they’ve released a trailer for Deadly Rooms of Death: The City Beneath. True, this game is about a year old, but it’s never too late to try out this rather brilliant, and overlooked, series of turn-based puzzle games. And DROD fans consider The City Beneath to be the best of the lot (and suitable for beginners).
I love the game’s really odd visual design and sense of humor. Definitely very unique!