My hands cramp as I write this because, for the past month, I’ve put around 100 hours into a mobile game.
You heard right: the very thing I swore off a decade ago. My boyfriend grimaces in disdain as he passes by, wondering exactly how I could be playing this game as much as Elden Ring. An exasperated ‘I can’t believe you’re playing a game on your phone,’ and, ‘Dicey Dungeons, again?’ and, in a final act of desperation to garner an ounce of my attention, he breaks into a mocking dance as the synth keyboard and jazz ensemble rattles my phone's speaker. The soundtrack is upbeat and catchy, offering enough serotonin that I never play on mute.
I haven’t spent this much time in mobile gaming since the good ol’ days of Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and Peggle - the originals, not the deformed scantily related ancestors that exist today. These mobile games cost money rather than carry the dreaded ‘In-App Purchases’ label with the aim to slowly drain your bank account and your sanity by bringing you back in timely, reward-promising intervals. I have a single, simple rule for my mobile games: no microtransactions.
Dicey Dungeons is the sweet low price of $4.99 and I swear this isn’t an ad.
Diving into the Dungeon
So what is Dicey Dungeons, and what the hell is a roguelike deck builder?
Pre-COVID, I was quick to tell you I hated roguelikes. For me, starting over again and again, with nothing to show for my accomplishments, felt frustrating and boring.
Now, in my post-covid reality, I’m completely mesmerized by roguelikes. If I play Mr. Thief dice 20 times, the dungeon inhabitants, treasure, and bosses switch up, making each run fresh. I can jump in and out of the game quickly, and the game suspends my progress even if I quit the app.
Each character equips a different starting ‘deck,’ or move set, and each little dice has a unique fighting style and ability. Will you pick a poison, shield, electric, or ice build? Play an inventor and be forced to change moves every time? Or just become a bear and crush a level in record time?
Lady Luck and the Dungeon Dwellers
So, what makes this game special?
Lady Luck flashes a menacing smile from the title screen, the once humans transformed into dice and imprisoned as her playthings in an unbeatable dungeon. But maybe, just once, the wheel will land on a prize? Any prize? I’m beginning to think something is wrong with this wheel.
Lady Luck promises ‘your heart’s true desire,’ and each character has their own motivation for entering the dungeon. Fame? Strength? Money? As the story progresses, the battle-worn dice appear more weary and tired with the creeping realization that maybe Lady Luck isn’t on their side…
And the dungeon's ‘inhabitants’ are just that: not enemies or monsters.
In a manner akin to Undertale, they are innocent in this debacle. There's a puppy searching for his mom, a pair of unlikely lovers, an insecure cactus sharpening his spikes, and a bunny keeping a garden. Each of the dungeon’s dwellers has made a home in this place and has their favorite books and movies, karaoke singalongs, and endearing quirks. Aurora will change the weather with her moods, Kraken will overwhelm with status effects, and Loud Bird will annoy you and prolong the battle with dodge.
The Final Door
The Final Door of Dicey Dungeons really made this game special to me and made the challenge of completing all six dice face doors worth the time and effort.
Without spoilers, I can say the Final Door was completely unexpected, with a gameplay twist and new dialogue offering insights into the lives of all who call the dungeon their home. When the credits roll, you’re rewarded with beautiful artwork depicting the lives of all the friends you made along the way.
Dicey Dungeons is a Fantastic Mobile Game
If you decide to play, don’t forget to go back and check out the hard difficulty levels! After you beat the game, the dialogue changes and everyone recognizes your efforts. You can also find two free DLCs on the title screen under Bonus Episodes.
Dicey Dungeons paints an example of a perfect mobile port. I don’t regret spending this much time on a mobile game, because the alternative for me is doom scrolling and becoming eye strained, fatigued, and anxious. Having a quality and challenging mobile game has recharged me and renewed my lost motivation.
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