From that opening shot of an arrow ripping through your chest to the McClane-inspired title, the implication is that you’re going to perish in Diehard Dungeon (80 MSP). And you will. That it is a roguelike, and really up to the whims of chance as to how fair (or brutal) the game is to you, is all part of the package you immediately accept when you sign up.
Following in the bloody footsteps of other roguelikes such as The Binding of Isaac and fellow XBLIG Sushi Castle, the game takes dungeon crawling, a deep reverence for the old school Legend of Zeldas, a ‘one life to live’ policy, and mixes in loot and powerups, all of it randomly-generated and set to a nice soundtrack.
You still find keys to unlock doors, hit switches, and occasionally get buffaloed by overwhelming odds or a bad draw, but the game strays a bit from the expected hack & slash (shoot & slash, here) and traps setup. There’s some choice in how you proceed at times, and that variety also extends to the gameplay.
There’s the Pac-Man minigame that has you putting out fires with the treasure chest (chests being known for their fire-extinguishing prowess, of course) in order to gain a fresh ability, or other, scattered chests in the levels that grant you a number of spins on a slot machine, which can improve your health, drop treasure, or add a new skill. Your ‘Companion Chest’ you rescue early on is more than just a storage-based sidekick, too, growing in power the more loot you collect, soon able to attack enemies on its own (you’re more or less its bodyguard at the start).
I never did find 10 golden keys in a playthrough (the game’s secondary objective), so I can’t speak for what the end treasure chest holds. Surviving and escaping the dungeon was good enough for me. Doing so unlocks ‘Champions’ mode, activated at the start of a game session if you so choose. It’s more of a neat trophy run than a tangible reward currently. You’ll see other players’ names and characters that made it out alive and opened the final chest (with either positive or negative effect) as you play an otherwise normal game.
Diehard Dungeon‘s other mode, Mayhem, is an ‘under construction’ twin-stick shooter with global leaderboards, starring the Companion Chest from the main game. You get three minutes to kill as many enemies as possible, building up a combo meter by avoiding attacks. It’s not front-loaded with content yet (hence the ‘under construction’), and probably wouldn’t rate as high without the leaderboard support, but it is a rather nice surprise in and of itself. It’s gives the indie press an excuse to fire highscores back and forth at each other, which is always fun.
You either dig roguelikes or you don’t. Diehard Dungeon won’t change your mind, despite being more action-y and ‘reserved’ in doling out its punishment. I enjoyed it. The only beef I have with the game is a temporary one; a periodic ‘pause’ in the action as the game shares data between players for the leaderboards. A patch should be up in a few weeks, addressing this and other issues or visual quirks. Also in the cards are updates, totaling about 50% more content; new areas, bosses, enemies, and abilities, as well as some extra ‘Mayhem’ stuff.
Joining Uprising alum qrth-phyl on the early winner’s podium, tricktale‘s Diehard Dungeon pays tribute to a classic within the confines of a more modern genre, and solidifies itself as one of the better examples in turn, with excellent gameplay and an aesthetic that is distinctly indie, distinctly XBLIG, which is what the Uprising is all about.