Deadly Rooms of Death
"Why's everybody gotta leave piles of skulls lying around? It's depressing." - Beethro Budkin
Deadly Rooms of Death: Journey to Rooted Hold is a downloadable game (for Windows, Mac, or Linux*) and very much a puzzle game, but unlike any other you may have played before. It is actually the sequel to the critically acclaimed DROD: King Dugan's Dungeon, and both were created by Caravel Games.
Deadly Rooms of Death is a turn-based puzzle game; one turn being the amount of time it takes Beethro, the central character, to move one square or to swing his sword by 45 degrees. Hitting an enemy causes them to vanish in a shower of blood and debris. Each time you move all enemies on the screen also move. The game starts off easily with the only enemies being roaches. They will move directly towards Beethro (if able) thereby causing them to line up for a smiting! However, things gradually get more difficult as more enemies are introduced, from roach queens, which run away and birth new roaches every 30 turns, to the Slayer, a powerful opponent equal in ability to Beethro.
In DRoD: JtRH, you begin the game as ex-smitemaster, Beethro Budkin. Now rich and famous from his smitemaster days after clearing King Dugan's Dungeon of vermin, he retired to look after a little restaurant, the "Roasted Roach Grill." You'd think that a whole dungeon's worth of meat would be enough to keep a small restaurant well supplied. It wasn't. Beethro started taking odd smitemastery jobs to get in extra supplies, but it was like trying to plug a dam with your finger.
Then there was Halph, Beethro's nephew. Halph had decided, against all good sense, that he wanted to be a smitemaster. Reveled in the war stories of the Guild veterans, he cheered when Beethro took him down to clean out his sister's basement. The boy was thick.
Beethro had one last plan to deter Halph from a dangerous life of smitemastery. During his now-legendary clearing of King Dugan's Dungeon, he came across a door which could only be opened from the other side, and had only recently come across a way to open it: a portable orb, which would open the door if Beethro could only get close enough. Behind this door Beethro hoped he could take Halph on an adventure that would put him off smitemastery for the rest of his life.
Equipped with the "Really Big Sword", you must make your way through the dungeon and beyond, showing Halph that a smitemaster's life is not for him. Rest assured the storyline becomes deeper the further you venture.
Analysis: The game sports a colorful graphic style, perfectly suited to the game's needs, which changes every few levels to a new theme to keep things interesting. The characters are fully voiced, which helps immensely to push the story along if you get bored of reading like me. Each level is loaded with entertaining dialog, even when Beethro has nobody to talk to, and the invented world and vocabulary go far to make the game both entertaining and somehow believable.
The game is slow to start, and not particularly challenging, but the introduction to the story begins to unfold during this time and it is enough to tide you over until you hit harder challenges. And when you hit them you'll surely know it. Many rooms require precise movement and analysis of the situation at every point to make sure you don't make the last move you ever will. It's very frustrating when you clear the vast majority of a room only to carelessly step into a spot where a roach can get you at the last moment. This is partly offset by the introduction of save points in the middle of some rooms, so when you die you can retry from that point, or pressing [R] resets the room completely. Most levels have a trick to them, and are just a case of executing the trick perfectly to complete the level... once you work out what the trick is, of course.
One grating point for me is the music. Although the tracks are enjoyable the first few times you hear them, they quickly become annoying as you realise the full extent of your addiction to the game. There are of course options to turn off the music should you desire.
Overall DRoD: JtRH is a classic puzzle game that will keep your brain twisting for hours. And that assessment is without even considering all the free user created holds available in the forums. So much high quality content in an indie game is rare, and another sequel is already in the works!
*Note: A Linux version of this game is also available, but we are unfortunately unable to provide demo download or order links for it. You will have to get it directly from Caravel Games, and doing so won't directly support our efforts here at all unless you use the order link above to purchase the game. Erik of Caravel Games wrote to tell me they do fully support purchases made through affiliates, so rest assured you can purchase the Windows or Mac version through us and obtain the Linux version directly from them free of charge:
"Yes, we give people (that order/purchase) from ArcadeTown or other portals/affiliates complementing Mac/Linux/Windows versions, plus free upgrades. It's necessary for the person to specifically request it and to provide some order details to confirm they made the purchase."
Jay adds: DROD is an excellent puzzle game and one that we highly recommend. It is also a game from which we will benefit when you purchase the full version by using the links in this review. These sponsored game reviews provide us a way of informing you about the best downloadable casual games available, while giving you another way to help support this site via your purchase. We will continue to provide sponsored reviews only for games we emphatically endorse.