Bit Dungeon II is a 2D dungeon crawling Rogue-Lite developed and published by KintoGames and released on December 14th. It’s available on Steam, as well as Android and iOS. I hadn’t heard about the game, but bought it on an impulse after glancing over the store page. Risking $4 on it wasn’t going to kill me, and the art was pretty enticing.
The game’s pretty small, but for a sprite-based game like this, I guess there’s not any reason for it to be a huge download. Once you start the game up, you’ll be dropped right in. The title screen feels like a great homage to older games like Castlevania, with a flash of lightning occasionally revealing the outline of what I assume is the game’s antagonist.
You play the role of a ghost…thing who’s entered an evil realm inhabited by demons. These very same demons have desecrated the grave of your deceased love interest. Our hero isn’t too happy about that, and plans to make things right by returning her soul to its resting place and defeating the forces of evil. Sounds enough like an adventure to you, right?
The whole game world is made up of five or six areas that will always be in roughly the same place. Just about all of your standard video game locations are represented, with a desert, a snowy battlefield, and not one, but two different forests (One of which is incorrectly referred to by an NPC as a “Forrest”).
Within each area, you’ll always see the same “rooms”, but their location gets scrambled around in each playthrough to keep things fresh. Every dungeon works in the same way as the overworld, but I think there are way fewer possible dungeon layouts because I’ve had a lot of identical floor plans in my time playing the game.
Carrying the soul of your lady-friend is by far the most important mechanic of the game, and your longevity will depend on having her with you. There are bonfires spread across the world that’ll restore your health and energy when you use them. When your health runs out, you’ll drop her soul where you were standing and respawn at the last bonfire you rested at. As long as you can make it back to where you last died and snatch her back up, you’re safe. If you die before you can do that, it’s game over. If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, you might be experiencing some deja vu right now. There’s also an option for online play in the menu, but I’ve yet to get that working, so it may not be functional.
The game manages to use the Souls-esque recovery mechanic well, and it stays challenging while making sure that each playthrough isn’t over before it even begins. However, it seems like one of the trademarks of the game is borrowing from other titles. The graphics are a nice throwback to SNES games of yore, but more than just a few of the sprites look a bit too similar to resources from The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. The dungeons are a particularly nasty offender. In addition to uncanny sprites, the atmosphere of the game reminds me of a less unsettling version of Anodyne, an indie title from a couple of years ago.
Combat works on a 1-button system. Depending on whether you’re in combat or not, tapping or holding the spacebar will perform a stamina-consuming attack, a guard/parry, or a weapon specific special ability. Simply walking into enemies will perform a less powerful attack that consumes no stamina. By the endgame, it can be a little mindless though, since you’ll win most encounters by hammering away until you’re out of stamina and then retreating until it recovers.
This is especially noticeable when fighting the bosses, who aesthetically are designed really well and even have little pre-battle quotes, but aren’t much more than pushovers. Once they attack they operate like a damage race in any MMO raid, so you’ll be mashing away hoping to kill the boss before his next attack starts.
The common enemies are usually much more of a threat than the bosses due to how numerous they are and how fast combat moves. What’s more annoying is the lack of any grace period while changing screens. You’re frequently at risk of being attacked before you can actually see the next screen.
It’s true that the combat may not be my favorite, but the large variety of randomly generated weapons and armor mean that there are multiple ways to play, and you might not always wind up building your character the way you had intended to. Finding a rare battleaxe early on is usually enough to make me forget about being a sneaky rogue, at least until you find a magic dagger in the later parts of your run.
It’s not a game without flaws, that’s for sure. I also want it to be known that it’s not a game without appeal. The music is catchy and in the few times where there’s not any playing, you immediately miss it. The characters within the game are also an odd mix of wacky and unsettling, ranging from a talking deer merchant to an axe-brandishing cannibal who ambushes you at the bonfire. There’s an eerie tone to every last inch of the game, like something from a fever dream. I felt genuinely lost until I realized that all of the controls are in the pause menu. I’d like to see a more noticeable tutorial because of that. Even just flashing the controls on the screen in whatever area you spawn in would be a huge improvement.
Overall, Bit Dungeon II is a game that tries to emulate a lot of different titles that have come before it, and succeeds to a degree. I’d like to see the developers take some time to look it over and do some fine tuning, because it just barely shines bright enough to blur the rough edges, and there are moments where you feel like you’re just playing a glorified flash game. Spelling errors, lack of dungeon variety, and issues with combat aside, I’ve put about 7-8 hours into the game and that number will probably continue to rise. It’s the perfect kind of game for killing time. Easy to start, easy to be entertained by, but not always easy to put down.
Bit Dungeon II isn't without it's share of flaws, but the addictive gameplay, catchy music, and simplicity manage to keep it afloat.