Remember the pleasure of the old-school 8-bit games you would attempt to master at the arcade after school. The enjoyment, yet simplicity, of slaying the visible pixels that stand before you. Dungeon Rustlers brings that nostalgia out of the arcade and into our homes. Choose between a Knight, Archer, or Mage to take on 50 levels, and the 7 unique and challenging enemies of this retro epic of a dungeon crawler. Dungeon Rustlers challenges worthy players to hack-and-slash through waves upon waves of tenacious enemies. Although you can only begin your anticipated adventure on PC, it does offer full controller compatibility for those console players who are willing to attempt the vigorous task of reaching the 50th level.
I felt a strong attachment to this game the second I began my adventure in level one. As an avid player in games like Realm of the Mad God and Gauntlet, I feel as if much of the world is missing out on these old-school adventure games. It’s not hard to see that the retro-90’s genre is fading away, and with new generations being exposed to the higher class games of today, pixelated dungeon crawlers could be pushed toward extinction. Luckily, companies like Zimventures brought us Dungeon Rustlers.
Before you begin the climb to victory, you must first choose one of three classes. The bold and ruthless knight can unsheathe her mighty sword to make her enemies cower in the face of death. As you progress through the levels your sword acquires the ability to shoot arrows from its blade, causing the slaughter of annoying slimes to be much more satisfying. If you ever find yourself on the brink of death, do not be afraid to activate your force field and flea the scene to regain health.
The archer, my personal favorite, weaves her frost arrows from her quiver, leaving her enemies frozen and slowed. While the archer is given less health than the knight, she is more than capable of conducting an equal amount of destruction. The Archer’s class ability allows you to heave frozen walls in both the front and back of your player, causing enemies to be halted and slowed where they stand. With her frozen bow in hand, no enemy would dare step in your path.
The final warrior would be the fire conjuring Mage. Spitting fireballs out of each hand, the Mage can melt any enemy it may come across. If ever in a crisis, the Mage can activate his special ability and summon a ring of fire around him, damaging enemies and keeping them away. While the mage can easily shred through the skeletons roaming in the dungeons, you only need to be hit twice in order to die.
All three classes are capable of upgrading their basic attacks and summoning floating helpers to aid in the adventure. Upgrading basic attacks will increase both the effectiveness of each hit and the number of shots being volleyed out of your weapon. The purchasable helpers will stand by your side and synchronize their attacks with yours, causing two more bullets to be added alongside your barrage of attacks. All of these upgrades can be purchased with gold found within in each level.
Dungeon Rustlers eases players into the game by providing appropriate increasing increments of difficulty, making each level seem accommodating, but no walk in the park. Around level ten, I did feel as if the upgrades for basic attacks made each level executable with ease. Similar to training in Call of Duty: Zombies, I would find myself dragging enemies behind me, eventually turning around and unleashing the power of my triple shot weapon. All of the enemies would perish, and I would repeat the cycle like clockwork. While many levels seemed like they should have been more difficult, I did find myself on the edge of my seat for a select few. Once you die, you are not brought to the title screen to replay the game right away. Instead, you respawn where you last were, but are missing all of the valuable upgrades and power-ups needed to withstand the forces of the current level. This shouldn’t pose as much of a problem during the early levels, but dying around level 30+ could be fatal. You begin with three lives and once all have dispersed, your journey is over. You can then attempt to climb the levels with a new character or beat your best times on the previous character.
Zimventures based Dungeon Rustlers on racing through levels and clearing them fast. They encourage players to repeat the game to shatter their previous times. After each level, you can view your best time, and where you stand on the compared to other players. I could imagine the replay potential, as well as the appeal to speedrunners in taking on Dungeon Rustlers and smashing the leaderboards.
The music choice for this game was amazing and fitted the tone to appeal towards old-school players. The mix of an epic dungeon crawler and retro-electro style tunes and beats, made me taste the sweetened luxury of being in a 90’s arcade. I did stumble upon a few glitches that left me dead for no reason, but I do understand that the game is still in early access and is not yet fully patched. I do wish Dungeon Rustlers offered more playable characters and diverse combat styles between them. Dungeon Rustlers’ 50 levels can be purchased for $3.99 on the steam marketplace today.