It breaks my heart to admit that every game we feature here at Jay is Games is fake. They are all illusions. We aren't really courageous space pilots or pixilated, anthropomorphic jumping animals, and if you looked under the hood, you'd see that what we're really doing when we play these games is merely shunting binary numbers around electronic circuits. As disillusioning as such an insight can be, I like to think that
Dungeon Dice, a simple turn-based RPG from Afro-Ninja (Shawn Tanner), shows that peeking behind the veil and seeing how our favorite games work at their most basic can still be fun. While Dungeon Dice is in many ways a typical RPG, its twist on the genre is that instead of fighting monsters with sword and fang, you fight each other with dice, or "magical numeric cubes." In a way, this is no different from any other RPG, but moving a background mechanic to the forefront makes for a different experience.
You play the hero in a typical dungeon delve, which you navigate with simple mouse clicks. In combat, roll your dice by clicking the "Hold and Release" button (you can hold the button to simulate the "daddy needs a new pair of shoes" experience). The side who casts the die with the highest result wins the attack, and the winner deals more damage the higher their result is compared to their opponent's. You can also modify die results before you roll by using your powers, which can either add a bonus to a result, heal you on a high result, or reroll a low result. You do this by dragging the colored orb for each power to the die you want it to affect before you roll. You learn more powers as you play, depending on what class you pick; and you also earn more dice, which let you battle stronger foes.
You only have a limited number of magic points to fuel your powers each combat, and only a certain number of hit points for the whole game, so there is a certain amount of strategy in managing limited resources, and in deciding which powers to assign when. A lot of the game, however, comes down to dumb, blind luck. This wouldn't be so bad if each fight were a little faster, but ties come up way too often, which makes the game too sluggish. This is a shame, because a simple tie-breaker mechanic (say, by resolving the round with the next-highest set of dice) could speed the game up considerably. However, despite the unnecessary drag, the game is a strangely mesmerizing experience, like playing slot machines or Plinko. Even though only a modicum of skill is required, there is something hypnotic about rolling dice for the best results, which is as fun as it is rote and compulsive. The fact that it's very short makes Dungeon Dice perfect for those who want a quick RPG experience, pared down to its essence.