There’s a lot to love about Pixel Boy and the Ever-Expanding Dungeon. A top-down dungeon-crawling RPG shooter with numerous powerups, item crafting, and serious consequences for death, this charming title brings a ton of stuff to the table, and does it in a really, really great way. Exploration, strategy, and skill all play equal parts in any potential for success — or for failure — while nonstop action keeps things moving along at a brisk, engaging pace.
The core gameplay takes place, as you might imagine, in the dungeon. An expansive, randomized complex filled with numerous (also-randomized) enemies, the eponymous Ever-Expanding Dungeon introduces all manner of curious creatures, places to explore, and items to collect. A town that acts as a hub any time you need a break between stages offers shops, friendly townsfolk, and access to whatever acts you’ve unlocked as you progress.
Weapons and armor are created at special crafting benches, giving our hero the chance to spend his hard-earned cash on a huge variety of potential items including arcade standards such as spread shot, heat-seeking, and life-stealing bullets, as well as armors that grant bonus to any of the game’s character stats of health, range, damage, speed, and fire rate. Up to three weapon upgrades can be equipped at a time, including those you’ve crafted from several basic boosts, meaning that Pixel Boy offers an insanely versatile list of weapon possibilities.
Each stage within the Ever-Expanding Dungeon has some common elements; you begin in a sealed room, with a health-restoring shrine, an anvil to repair armor for a nominal fee, and an elevator to return to the surface if you’re not up to the fight. Every time you descend, the game’s curious Mob Maker 9000 device will select at random up to four enemy types you’ll face within, with more lethal beasties becoming available in each of the game’s acts. Acts end with a brutal boss battle that offers great reward for victory, so saving up some of those high-powered weapons upgrades definitely pays off — assuming you can make it to the end.
With simplistic yet well-executed graphics, crisp controls (though I wish there was controller support), and a phenomenal backing soundtrack, Pixel Boy and the Ever-Expanding Dungeon is a surefire win for fans of the roguelike genre. Beyond the myriad of power-boosting items, menagerie of creatures, and expansive areas to explore is a fundamentally sound game that delivers a difficult but doable experience with great accents. Available via Steam for $9.99, I’d happily give a recommendation and won’t hesitate in the least to call the price more than fair — I’d just as easily recommend it at twice the cost.
[+Great gameplay] [+Expansive powerups] [+Fantastic art and music] [-Lack of controller support]