Choose Wisely or Die
Text Dungeon is a new venture for the indie developer Nickelbits. A trio of friends who are looking to sink their teeth into gaming industry. This the first installment of Brune’s adventure, with a sequel to hopefully follow in the near future. Text Dungeon plays as a choose-your-own adventure game, giving the player two to three choices in where to send our brave hero. The story is incredibly reminiscent to classic D&D games and is firmly rooted in the fantasy genre.
The beautifully illustrated interactive story features an adventuring dwarf named Brune Bronzeguard. Brune has been recruited by (possibly sinister and unknown) Vergen to retrieve an ancient and powerful artifact. He is sent deep into the treacherous and abandoned Mikin’s Silver Mine. Where else would someone hide a mysteriously powerful item of unknown origin? The player navigates Brune past goblins and spiders, battling the forces of evil with his trusty ax and lantern.
As a choose-your-own adventure game, which I originally scoffed at, it kept me engaged and frustrated with my poor life choices. The story is overlaid a series of incredible artwork of the silver mine and the terrors that await you as Brune trudges towards his goal. The player gets the option of either two or three paths to find items, or more likely, horrible death. I almost felt bad as I hurtled Brune stupidly through the endless tunnels, learning of all the interesting ways to get yourself killed. My favorite was an option to fall asleep in a newly-discovered tunnel. My less than brilliant decision led to a proper and well-deserved sassing by the writers. The story unfolds nicely before the player, including a less-than expected ending. The strong writing and art style is what really ties this game together. It could have easily been a boring or rehashed idea, but there is originality to be found within this title.
Another fun feature in the game is the ability to collect items to use that will advance Brune further in the story. As you progress through the mine you can combine pieces of spells and find keys to chests that would otherwise kill you. How handy that this silver mine happened to have both parts of a magic scroll that would decimate incoming goblins! Just what I needed. Although an annoying counterpoint to that is when you miss said items which ultimately results in your death … and then throws your poor dead dwarf back to the title screen. Womp womp.
However, it must be said that Text Dungeon is incredibly short. Finished in one sitting in under an hour kind of short. There is no saving, so you basically have no choice but to muscle your way through the full game. Remembering all your choices perfectly and pushing your way forward is also another method, albeit less enjoyable. The lack of a save or pause screen was frustrating, opening my text messages mid-goblin kill was a poor choice, as I found myself returned to the title screen. It got tiresome to be randomly returned to the title screen because I opened another application and couldn’t remember my exact sequence to navigate the mine correctly. The total lack of saving or checkpoints was a real drawback to the overall experience. I became incredibly intimate with the title screen and the opening monologue (which thankfully is skippable) during the course of my multiple runs.
Despite my initial skepticism of Text Dungeon’s seemingly simple premise and gameplay, I found myself really enjoying this game. The art style is great and works well with the fantasy theme of the story. It harkens back to a simpler time and the old “Goosebumps” books us 90’s kids were so fond of. It’s a quick story, which makes re-playability rather limited. It must be said, however, that there’s also a certain enjoyment in replaying the scenes to find all the fun ways to murder Brune. This is the first in (hopefully) a few more chapters of Brune’s story, I’d definitely be interested in seeing how this world progresses. According to the group the revenue from the game will go to fund a 2D adventure featuring Brune’s next adventure. Go support this group of indie developers!