If there’s one thing to be said about modern video games as compared to the games of the past, it’s that we’re living in a time where story dominates. Instant Dungeon! by With the Love Studios returns to the quick pick-up-and-play action of bygone days. Packed with different game modes and numerous playable characters, the game wastes no time throwing players directly into the action. Presenting an ever-changing field of play, a sleek yet simple item system, and a few other modern trappings, Instant Dungeon! definitely still feels more old-school than new.
Instant Dungeon! plays like most any other randomly-generated top-down RPG. You’re tossed into an apparently-endless dungeon, complete with monsters, weapons, magic, and more. Whichever character you choose seems to have no bearing on gampelay; I stuck to the default ‘random’ setting. Each level consists of grabbing the key and finding the exit. Between you and these simple objectives, you’ll find monsters; one touch from any enemy, and your game ends, sending you back to level one.
What Instant Dungeon! does right is get quickly into a fast-paced, no-frills gameplay. Items are a one time only deal, and you can only carry one item at any given moment. There are plenty of items to grab; knives, axes, and magic scrolls can help you defeat enemies, while a helmet or shield keeps you protected for a single blow. The helmet has a unique advantage over any other item, in fact. Using it equips it, meaning it stays in place until “used” by making contact with an enemy or projectile, but you’re free to pick up something else.
Instant Dungeon! essentially starts with the most basic gameplay mode; grab the key, reach the exit. Reaching high enough levels here will unlock additional modes – called ‘recipes’ – to alter the goals a bit. One will have you completing quests for a king, typically slaying a number of a certain monster type, or collecting a specific item. Other ‘recipes’ include a rescue mission, a boss-battle arena, and simplified practice modes to get the hang of the game. Ultimately, each plays pretty similar since they’re all within the same basic gameplay, but some variety to the objective is is a nice touch.
Ultimately, Instant Dungeon! feels like a game that would benefit from more gameplay variation. I was disappointed as it became apparent that the characters were essentially just ‘skins’, but there’s so little to the overall mechanics of the game that I’m not even sure what could be made unique about them. The good news is, though, that what’s there is pretty enjoyable for what it is. And with developer With the Love Studios asking only $1.99 for the game on Steam ($1.69 on sale as I write this) and Desura, it’s got plenty to offer for the price of admission.