The roguelike renaissance continues with Diehard Dungeon, Tricktale Games’ Xbox Live Indie dungeon crawler, released in a hurry to make the deadline for the latest Indie Uprising promotion. At times, the rush to get it finished is all too evident: the soundtrack cuts out before it can loop properly, there’s the odd example of graphical corner-cutting, and the containers in each randomly-generated chamber take far too much punishment before they collapse. Yet these rough edges do little to diminish the appeal of a vicious little game that manages to charm even as it liberally sprays pixellated gore across the screen.
Diehard Dungeon occupies a curious middle ground between The Legend of Zelda and The Binding of Isaac, setting you the simple task of collecting ten golden keys randomly hidden within a large dungeon. A sword is your default weapon, but before long you’re joined by a sentient treasure chest that gradually upgrades itself from the loot you gather, eventually providing support fire while laying down smaller chests to act as miniature turrets. Further chests offer the chance to earn a variety of buffs, assuming the reels land in your favour, and later you’ll find a gun that fires large explosives and a throwing knife to attack from distance.
Even with such an arsenal it’s easy to be overwhelmed: enemies are plentiful, capable of withstanding repeated attacks before falling, and replacement hearts are in short supply. It’s unforgiving, if a little less brutal than some of its peers. Respite comes in the form of a twin-stick shooter bonus game, an apparent eleventh-hour extra which might well be the highlight of the entire package, and which smartly circumvents Microsoft’s no-leaderboard rule with peer-to-peer score tables. Diehard Dungeon is a patch or two shy of greatness, then, but there’s an awful lot here to like.