ASCII dungeon crawlers are a strange pocket of gaming, even for those of us who live and breathe the hobby. Pure expressions of gameplay with graphics that serve only to enhance the mind’s eye. Of course, while there are certainly still ASCII games being made, as there is always a market for games that can run on a toaster, the genre isn’t nearly as prolific as other retro inspired fodder on the indie scene. It needs a bit of a boost, and Stormcloud Games’ [email protected] looks to be the ASCII upgrade that we never knew we needed. The game preserves the heart and soul of older titles while bringing it into three dimensions and injecting more action oriented gameplay into the traditional shell.
Each adventure starts with you walking into the dungeon with nothing but a shield, a torch, and your bare fists. Each randomized world will contain twenty six floors filled with monsters to slay amidst a delightfully colorful spray of blood. Before you get there, you’ll need a weapon, which can be crafted by looting a blueprint and then fulfilling said blueprint with the most plentiful resource available in an old school computer dungeon, letters. You need the proper letters to craft each weapon, which is a great nod to the way that the old school dungeons were constructed and a creative way to get players thinking in the same way that the original designers of these intricate visual marvels were.
There are five weapon types in all, including spears, hammers, bows, and two lengths of sword. Each type of weapon also has a special attack built in, giving some variety to the hack and slash fun. In addition to its weapon crafting, [email protected] also sports several other features essential to any randomized dungeon crawl. Once you build your perfect blade out of alphabet soup, you can upgrade it with elemental magic to give it a damage boost and a spiffy new paint job. You can also mix potions that can be used as both a stat boost and a handy explosive grenade, and they will have a randomized effect and color at the start of each run, which I’m sure will lead to plenty of player poisoning themselves just before boss fights.
I’ll admit that [email protected]‘s brand of co-op focused spelunking doesn’t seem particularly innovative, but man does the game have style. With the premise and the neon colors everywhere, you’d be excused for thinking that this was a Tron game in disguise, but Disney probably wouldn’t be OK with their dungeon of monsters bleeding all over the digital dungeon floor. I am a big proponent of preserving what has come before and learning from it, and [email protected] appeals to me as an archivist looking to examine this strange subculture of gaming while also promoting it among players who might just be in it for the wanton violence. Make no mistakes, I’ll be here for the violence too.
If you see the potential in [email protected]l‘s particular brand of nostalgia, then you have several options for procuring your copy. If you have a PlayStation 4, you’ll be pleased to hear that the game is already arriving on your platform of choice, with the first announcement for the game coming at the PlayStation Experience last year. If you’d rather experience the game on the same platform that fueled its forbears, you’ll have to lend your vote to the game’s ongoing Greenlight campaign. Either way, [email protected] seems like a fine way to spend a few afternoons pretending you’re among the most elite of gamers of the late 80s. They’ll still make fun of you if you jump into a MUD, but you can’t please everyone.
What are your thoughts on [email protected]? Have you ever spent hours and hours in an ASCII dungeon? Comment below, and come back next week for another Greenlight gem on To The Green!