Tiny Dice Dungeon
Gameplay - 9.5
Presentation - 5.2
Lifespan - 7.8
Level of Freeness - 5.5
The simple mechanics and heavy customization in this mobile game kept me coming back for more. On the other hand, having to pay for what turns out to be the most critical item in the game is extremely frustrating.
Kongregate’s new pixel-art mobile game, Tiny Dice Dungeon, is deeper than the 8-bit graphics would lead you to believe. Along with straightforward mechanics, the game offers you an in-depth menu system with the chance to evolve your dungeon-crawling into something altogether different and enjoyable.
Then I hit the paywall. The game falls apart when you’re asked to pay for key items in the game that further your chances to customize characters, nullifying any excitement I had built up beforehand.
The main mechanic of the game is extremely simple, as the title implies. In order for characters (enemies included) to determine how much damage they will inflict, you roll a few dice. The total of the dice gives you the amount of damage you will inflict.
The catch: you can roll as many dice as you want, at least until you roll a “1”. Once that happens, all your accumulated attack power is lost and you miss your turn.
While I wasn’t too impressed at first by touching a few dice and adding them together, that all changed when I got my first miss. The feeling of missing in a regular RPG is disappointing, but it’s often a rare occurrence. In this case, you have a one in six chance of missing, making every extra roll you choose to take a definite risk.
It’s that tension that makes the upgrades you soon receive so satisfying. You can add dice that never roll “1”s, or dice that poison your opponent, even dice that multiply your dice rolls’ values. Once these options started opening up, the game changed completely and I had to really think about when I would stop rolling, which dice I would roll, even what dice I should gear up with before a big dungeon.
Being able to add strategy to my dice rolls, along with finding out you can capture your enemies and force them to join your party—permanently—is what really sold me on the gameplay in Tiny Dice Dungeon.
The art style in Tiny Dice Dungeon is clearly aimed towards those who don’t mind a little simplicity in their presentation. You play as basic sprites holding absurdly large weapons à la Final Fantasy and enemies are often just blobs of colour with eyes.
I don’t have enough nostalgia to find this kind of art enjoyable, but it’s easy to bear when you start talking to the NPCs in the game. The game is irreverent and self-referential but not overly so: at one point, the shopkeeper warns you against bartering and says “This is the only shop in the game, the game developers gave me a monopoly on this place!”
The action sequences in the game leave something to be desired, however. Everything is pared down; even the dice animations are almost non-existent. When my fighter attacked, he runs forward with his sword in hand and the enemy is damaged.
My party of monsters had even less interesting animations during battle, spitting out a grey pixel and causing the enemy to flash once as damage is dealt. I realize this is a free mobile game, but I can’t help but expect more.
Every time I ran through a dungeon I find something new, whether that’s a new crafting item, some rare dice, even the chance to snare a new monster. Dungeons don’t take too long to play through either—probably about 5 minutes average once you get through the introductory stages—so the game never feels like it’s dragging on.
A constraint that might deter hardcore mobile gamers is the rest system. If you play five dungeons without waiting twelve minutes to regain a rest bar, you can’t collect treasure anymore when you finish a dungeon. Since these are usually big payouts, this can be a big letdown after just beating a tough boss.
“Every time I catch a new baddy I feel as though the wait was worth it.”
However, the monster collection feature in the game does offer a lot of satisfaction, especially since catching them is quite difficult at times. When you start, the attack power you roll has to be exactly equal to the enemy’s remaining HP.
This is incredibly hard, especially considering you don’t have much control over how much damage you actually do. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that this only adds a new element of strategy to the game and it now makes me concentrate even harder when picking my rolls. Every time I catch a new baddy I feel as though the wait was worth it.
Level of Freeness
The paywall in Tiny Dice Dungeon isn’t too intrusive at first but becomes more of an issue as you play on. To purchase a valuable crafting item, Uncut Dice, you can fork out some real world cash, but all other items are available with in-game currency. I didn’t find much use in buying Uncut Dice when I started off seeing as how they hook you in with five free ones.
The paywall only gets in the way when you try to get deeper into the customization systems of the game. It soon becomes clear that you’re not going to be getting much in the way of extra crafting items just by playing dungeons and even when you do, there’s not enough to actually make anything useful with.
As someone who really wanted to be able to deck out my character with all the fancy dice that I kept unlocking, this was extremely disappointing. If you don’t mind shelling out a few bucks, there are plenty of possibilities open to you as far as engaging with the customization. Since I stubbornly refused to spend any money, I was relegated to grinding endlessly to get crafting items, hindered of course by the rest system.
While I wasn’t able to lose myself for hours within Tiny Dice Dungeon, it did provide a decent distraction from the daily grind while I was on coffee breaks or waiting for commercials to end. Because of the rest system, I found that I never got bored of the game and would always come back to it after some time.
On the other hand, having to pay for what turns out to be the most critical item in the game is extremely frustrating. The paywall almost makes the whole thing not worth spending time on, especially because the customization elements were the most interesting part of the game.