By: Paul Eres

On: November 16th, 2009

Dungeon is a game by a powerful tag-team: Mr. Podunkian (of The Underside fame) and cactus (of dozens of games per year fame). To quote Zarathustra in the forums: “a horribly hard platformer with bad graphics? This is indie people”

My favorite part of the game was the room titles, which I think were a great way of adding an interesting background story to a game without dialogue. It’s a short game, took me about 10 minutes to get to the end, while playing in a window and having a conversation with two people at once (one of them Podunkian). A good indie game snack.

“Dungeon is a tragic platformer about what can happen in a
castle, and how it affects people like you and me.” -cactus

EDIT: cactus has an update for us!

Sorry about the radio silence, we felt it was necessary to let this experiment live its own life for a while.

Anyway, this should pretty much make everything clear

And here’s a bugfree version of the game

  • anothergol

    >>you want a site that reviews indie games which try to be like mainstream games

    if they’re like THIS:

  • http://0xdeadc0de.org Eclipse

    lol, i love you guys… and now i actually was able to complete the game o/ sometimes even a little flaw can manage to make a game less fun or.. totally unbeatable in this case o.o

  • http://0xdeadc0de.org Eclipse

    this “experiment” wasted a good hour of my time yesterday :P damn you

  • Austin Wilburn

    I was 4… No checkpoints…

    I beat it the hard way >:o

  • Hdarren

    What amazes me is that people are boning off about this game just because of who made it. If some random new kid came along and released this then it would be rightly slammed as an awful game.

  • silo

    i did not have a fun time playing this so i shall avoid future titles

    , A silo

  • Levi

    no, it doesn’t have to be an epic, but tigsource has shown more than just this game on the front page that ends up being two minutes long. Ya know what? That’s fine if you preface that it’s super short and not a traditional game. I don’t think Pathways deserved the acclaim, but at least the author says it’s short and isn’t a typical game.

    This is a platformer with Atari~like graphics and a few lines thrown in for story… which don’t add up to anything. If you’re goin to bother making us jump over pits and what~not that’s fine… But this just isn’t good. Sorry. If it’s for a competition, that’s als fine, but that doesn’t mean it deserves front page. Unless they took aother week or two to flesh out the idea… or at least tell us it’s two minutes long!

    Anyway, I’m sick of how the indie community is embracing these incredibly short games so much. Portal was a fantastic game despite its length compared to other retail games, but I have yet to see something that only takes a couple minutes meet the acclaim.

  • Ntero

    These posts are really entertaining after you’ve gone through Clarity.

    I like to try to guess what number each person was, my favourite is 79.

  • xot

    These posts are also entertaining from a sociological perspective, especially for those studying subcultures populated with butthurt whiners.

  • Ezuku

    Heh. I really enjoyed the experience after clarity. Ty. Just not again please.

    Can’t wait for air pirates though Cactus.

  • JoeHonkie

    “I have yet to see something that only takes a couple minutes meet the acclaim.”

    Fortunately the cost to you in that case is quite minimal: only a few minutes.

  • Anthony Flack

    I really LIKE the graphics. I don’t think they look crappy at all; I think it’s a very stylish take on a 30-year-old aesthetic.

  • ChrisL

    Ugh, when did the people on the comments here get so shitty?

    Guess what, there are game makers out there who do consider themselves artists. You might find them pretentious, maybe even malicious, because you’re used to interactive media being simply fun past times. Tough nuggets. After a certain point, certain sects of a medium decide to push their work in new, experimental directions. For the people concerned with the games as art debate, this is incredibly heartening and exciting. If you have no interest in the philosophy of art as it applies to games, perhaps you’d prefer playing Modern Warfare 2.

    A lot of Cactus’ games are like sketches. And that’s what I love about them. Yu once compared the Poppenkast group to the Impressionist movement. Both began using tools that made their work easier to create (tubes of premixed paint, gamemaker). Both were criticised for making things that appeared to be unfinished according to the aesthetics of the period.

  • Justin

    Even in the zero bug version of the game, it was frustratingly hard. Two thumbs down.

  • http://www.allaboutthegames.co.uk Stuart Walton

    It’s not a good game. It’s not meant to be, yet many of you still persevered. I got 05 and couldn’t get past the floor spikes. I tried about 30 times to get past, concluding that I should have in all those tries at least once hit the right jumping point.

    It’s an interesting idea to see how people react when presented with an unfinishable game whilst others have no problem. Bugs find their way into released games all the time, many are minor, a few are showstoppers but the very worst are the kind that stay hidden a prevent progress.

    For it is progression, and the ultimate goal of completion that gamers prize. Many of you weren’t angered by the blocky monochromatic tileset (with bits of claret for danger), or the poor checkpoint placement, the story with little impact, or the keyboard capture code that can cause a jump to occur milliseconds later (actually, that last one might just be my hardware).

    This demonstration strongly highlights the importance of how both challenge and progression are incredibly important to game design. Even though promoting one usually hinders the other. Even though it’s not a good game, we play to experience it, preferably to the end. When the challenge increases we still play, eager to beat it and we enjoy the moment we do.

    But raise the difficulty to infinity by blocking progression and the enjoyment stops. Some people may have given up before this, unable to meet the demands of difficult but still completable sections. But at this point many still keep trying and they try for much longer that those who fell before. In language of games there isn’t the word impossible, at least not in the mainstream dialect.

    Impossible doesn’t exist in the mainstream because as much as increasing the challenge can tap into our competitive nature, nobody likes to lose (Unless dwarves are involved). However, subverting the language of games in this fashion can be made to work. The trick is to make the act of failure part of progression. It’s done more often than you think and even in the mainstream.

  • Paul Eres

    ^ worthy of pigscene

  • Jamal

    “And why wasn’t there any of such artsy pieces of crap 20 years ago? Because there was no internet place where people would have discussed them. Proof that there’s just zero value as a game.”

    anothergol, I don’t see how that’s proof of anything except the changing of our times. Does Dungeon rely on discussion to make it an interesting experience? Yes, but it’s a form of metagaming. Naturally most players will be curious to find out what’s up with Dungeon, so the internet forums become part of the experience. I see nothing inherently wrong with that.

    Why don’t you give Cactus’ other games a shot man? Screenshots don’t really do them justice. Try Psychosomnium, Decontrologic, Stench Mechanics, or if you’re looking for a challenge, Mondo Medicals. I would like to hear your thoughts on these.

    Stuart knows what he’s talking about: “The trick is to make the act of failure part of progression.” I can’t help but thinking a few folks here are sour because they invested a lot of time on an “unwinnable” game, when the concept of the game is richly rewarding.

    Hdarren, it’s not really fair to make a statement like that when there is plenty of negative feedback here. Also, regardless of whether your statement is true or not, I fear it may be discouraging to an artist who has given so much to this community for free.

  • JWK5

    Sometimes you have to stop and laugh at someone’s good joke, other times you stop and realize you are someone’s good joke. Sounds like this is a game that plays the players.

  • anothergol

    >>>anothergol, I don’t see how that’s proof of anything except the changing of our times.

    Mmmh no, 30 years ago people were already staring at a plain red painting, snobbishly discussing “I like how his bright red describes all the suffering in the world”.
    In fact, it was worse – today’s snobbish self-acclaimed art is still ugly, but shows more work.

    What has changed is that tools made it possible for such snobbish artists to make & share their crap easily.
    Even if this crap game had been made 30 years ago, no way it would have been shared through discs or BBSes, it would have gone to the trash bin immediately.

    And fine if you like to stare at such pieces of crap, but that’s spitting in the face of real artists, and (again), encouraging more of this trolling crap. I don’t wanna imagine all the harmful ways of playing with players. There should be a new “filter bad games” tab in my antivirus for this kind of thing :)

  • anothergol

    Oh and to the artist: I don’t see the point of the fake rasterizing over the image. If you want to make it realistic, learn your tools, it can end up interesting to see a realistically-modelled fake CRT with the rounded corners, color bleeding & all. But if it’s to just add a lame texture over the whole image.. meh.. although I suppose one will come up with an artsy excuse for that.

  • IndieJoJo


    Maybe this is completely lost on you, but this ‘art’ wouldn’t have been possible 30 years ago. There was no no retro aesthetic, no Indie community, and most of all, no Internet.

    cactus and podunkian set out to make a game with the theme ‘Comedy and Tragedy.’ By all accounts, it’s been a rousing success.

    Also, regarding the CRT: “This game was created in two days for Mini Ludum Dare 14.”


    I’m not going to argue whether or not the art itself is ‘pretentious’, but you, sir, need to FUCK OFF AND DIE

  • anothergol

    >>There was no no retro aesthetic, no Indie community

    ..you mean it was the same aesthetic, just not called “retro”?

    >>no Indie community

    pretty much all games were indie at that time

    >>and most of all, no Internet.

    that’s exactly my point. The internet combined with people looking for attention made this game.


    wow, “I’m indier than you because I make crap games in 5 minutes”

  • Derek

    This is an AWESOME comment thread. And therefore the game is AWESOME. QED.

  • Crap

    Then, by reading this thread, I must, therefore, be AWESOME!!

  • jamatthews

    The length did bother me. My favourite Indie Game is 1 minute long, so to sit through several minutes was incredibly long winded.

  • Jamal

    anothergol, the reason nobody can take your comments seriously is because it sounds like you actually hate the game, as if you have something personal against it or the authors. You call it “snobbish, self-acclaimed art” but all the acclamations of it being art have come from these internet threads, not from the authors themselves. Not that there is anything bad about artists calling themselves artists, you just sound jealous by making spurious arguments like this.

    “..you mean it was the same aesthetic, just not called “retro”?”

    Yep. Context is everything.

  • nik

    After Clarity, (I was number 0 the first jump impossible), i had a good laugh.

    I thought everybody was in on it.I saw posts on forum about: spikes, pussies and what not And couldn’t figure it out.
    very nice!

    And the amount of comments proves it importance.

  • Jamal

    I’m happy for the game’s success too, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Just because something is discussed a great deal doesn’t make it important.

  • silo

    theres a kid down my street that could do something like this. if i ask him politely enough he might let me upload it and then make internet people even more happy for playing a kids game


  • KC

    Whether or not he would use these exact words, Cactus trolled us. Hard and well. I for one intend to take it like a man. Well played, you S.O.B.
    And for those questioning Cactus’ competence as a game designer: play “Clean Asia!” The man can brew up an awesome non-art game just as well as he can a thoroughly artsy one.

  • Huh?

    @KC – I don’t understand. What exactly did Cactus do? How did he “troll” us? I can’t feel trolled until I know what’s going on!

  • Almost


    Did you play the game?
    Did you (after playing the game) have the moment of clarity?

  • Rampancy

    It seems to me (not having played Dungeon) that much of the art of this game is in the discussion it generated, rather than in the game itself. And it seems to me (having read this thread) that it’s pretty decent art.

    Thanks, Cactus and Mr. Podunkian. I kind of wish I’d played this so I could have contributed to the confusion. …Really looking forward to The Underside and BDTUW!

  • Huh?

    I did play the game, both version 1 (as far as the three upright spikes) and 2 (all the way). I also played clarity, but no clarity was forthcoming.

    Maybe I’m just stupid – can you explain what meaning I was supposed to get from it all?

  • ssp

    The game is intentionally “bugged”. There’s no “meaning” per se, it was designed to generate confusion and get people like anothergol all riled up. ;)

  • Jamal

    It is simply a joke. Sometimes the only way to escape a dungeon is to press the ESCAPE key. (A funner, but less graceful, game that explored this conceit to exhaustion would be Karoshi 2.0)

    I sympathize with your confusion Mr. Huh? as cactus’ efforts to provide a hint were vague and wordy: “How what happens in a castle… affects you and me” or something like that? Excuse me?

    A better tagline might have been: “What happens in a dungeon… stays in a dungeon.”

  • fuzz

    did any of the negative commenters here consider that games do not have to take place solely within the application posited to be “the game”? read auntiepixelante if you’d like to know more about this, she has some really interesting thoughts on gameplay outside of the data files of the game, and she’s made a few games that take advantage of this.

  • Paul Eres

    the idea that a game is contained only in the game itself makes no sense anyway, it’s what happens in the brain that matters. cf. situationists international

  • Jamal

    This is getting deep O_O

  • fuzz

    haha, everything is deep if you think about it enough.

  • cactus

    “So deep…”
    -Marie Forså
    (Swedish porn actress)

  • Huh?

    I still don’t get the joke, even after hearing it explained. So it’s a platform game with some bugs. So what? I didn’t feel trolled. I didn’t feel enlightened. I enjoyed the puzzles. When I couldn’t complete v1 I tried v2 and finished it, which is perfectly normal for a developing game. If there’s some great meaning here, cactus, it’s too obtruse for me. It just seemed like an average game.

  • Paul Eres

    cactus said it wasn’t intended to be a joke, just an experiment. the experiment was: what would happen if a game acted differently on different computers, easy on some, hard on others, impossible on others? it doesn’t have a “meaning” in the way you’re thinking, it was just an interesting experience

  • cm

    lol @ all the angry angry gamers who are personally offended that this game was not only made, but that some people somewhere actually enjoyed it. I find it pretty fun to read the comments and figure out who got what bug. It’s like we all got a different present from the creator! Then again, I got one of the better bugs – annoying sound mode.

  • Jamal

    Well, that said, I wanna say it was a very fascinating experiment. Reading this board was the best part, and I’m happy for everyone who contributed.

  • William Broom

    ugh I just wasted like 5 minutes of my life on this game that I don’t like, and what’s worse is that now I have waste 3 more hours bitching about it on the internet

  • Nitromatic

    I love this game.

    It was.. rooms were awesome! Not much to say,but play Dungeon,Nitro’ said.