Sometimes, reviewing scads of indie games means finding something that makes an effort to break rules of “traditional” games and put a twist on a genre. Dungeonmans is an interesting example of this, combining a complete irreverence for itself and the genre it hails from with a curious take that mixes in some interesting pieces to the RPG roots. Unfortunately, some of this seems to make the game feel stretched thin in places, offering a variety of elements but lacking great depth in many of them. Still, as an experimental and self-deprecating title, there’s a charm to it.
The player’s first task in Dungeonmans is creating the kingdom from which the heroes will hail by establishing a Dungeonmans Academy to train your champions. Your only role in this piece is naming your realm. After that, you’re dropped immediately into hero creation, which involves supplying a name, then choosing from a list of four stat sets, picking a class (from among the likes of ‘Fightermans’, ‘Rangermans’, and ‘Nekromanser’), and finally choosing your gender and appearance from a pre-set group of generic 2D icons. Once created, your new protagonist is dropped into the Academy and let loose on the world after a brief introductory scene.
Dungeonmans wastes no time in jumping into the more familiar territory of a top-down click-to-play RPG. Your Dungeonmans (or, if you so choose, Lady Dungeonmans) is mostly free to begin exploring, let loose to see what can be found. Both times I started up new worlds, a nearby “Convenient Kobold Cave” provided some quick, easily-accessible action for a low-level character. Unfortunately, both of those Dungeonmans met their untimely demise after deciding to explore the second floor. Dungeonmans killed in battle are honored for their service, and leave behind loot – and a champion-level moster who slew them – for future recruits to find.
Where Dungeonmans falls short is in a lack of polish or detail to its various facets. Play is stiff, and the controls aren’t particularly intuitive or easy to master for more skill-heavy characters such as Wizardmans. It almost feels like the design is a part of the joke, but I’m not entirely sure. The rest of the game certainly is, with a riddling of tongue-in-cheek item or skill descriptions and regular poking at all of the common tropes and themes from “traditional” Western RPGs. It’s got a certain lighthearded appeal to it, but I didn’t feel like the play was as fun as the tone.
All in all, there’s certainly some fun to be had with Dungeonmans. It’s got an amusing feel to it, and while the play isn’t especially great, it’s functional and there’s plenty of space to explore. Recovering from the death of a Dungeonmans is as simple as drumming up a new one, repeating the character creation process to try a different angle. I’m not sure I’d say it’s worth the normal $14.99 price tag on Steam, sales (such as the $11.99 as of this writing) may make it worth a try, but I’d say waiting for a deeper discount during one of the inevitable Steam themed sales would be the way to go.