DungeonDiary by Windbell is an RPG mixed with a programming game. It sounds like an unusual combination, but the minute you get your hands on it you'll see the enormous potential it has. After your family suffered through a natural disaster, you're left with a massive debt and no way to pay it off. Except by going on adventures! Not a bad way to survive, until you realize that in order to get paid you'll collect more grasses and mushrooms than you knew existed, fight off hordes of bees and "sexy cats", and escort helpless citizens through the wilderness.
In DungeonDiary you don't actually control your character. Instead, you learn, modify and arrange sets of rules to guide her through randomly generated dungeons filled with treasures, obstacles and enemies. The highest priority rules go at the top of the list and are checked first, so, for example, if you have "I will pick a random direction and walk there" above "I will continue to walk downwards", you will more likely step on a random tile than head down. These rules can be modified to help you avoid enemies, pick up or ignore items, escape when your health is low, and do just about anything you can imagine. There are dozens of them with hundreds of attributes to tinker with, making the possibilities for character control staggering. Best of all, you can watch these events take place (useful for analyzing your setup) or walk away and let your adventurer do the work in the background!
After succeeding (or failing) at a quest, you'll return to the game's main menu where you can chat with a friend for some advice (a brief tutorial), go to bed, pick a new quest, or head to the merchant's shop to deal with your inventory. You have limited space to carry stuff around and also limited movement points, so you should go to bed every once in a while to top off your stats. Sleeping also gives you a chance to repay part of your debt, which is how DungeonDiary determines progress. The more you pay, the more dungeons and quests you have access to. Occasionally the shopkeeper will also upgrade your stats when you take a nap, so no matter what happens, remember your personal banker is rooting for you!
Analysis: Interesting ideas like this don't come along that often, so when you see a game like DungeonDiary, it's like a little treasure. Sure, the interface is clunky, the English translation is awkward, and there's a fair amount of grinding to be done, but since the core concept is so intriguing those issues only make it more endearing in the long run. It also makes the rule sharing feature almost essential to survival, giving you the ability to export your setup so you can help other players get a head start on the adventuring.
Beyond the rule arranging and general item management, DungeonDiary employs a very mild dress-up feature. Before you run off in a huff because you're too old for a dress-up game, know that it's little more than a handful of extra clothing accessories that can be worn or dyed and then saved as an image to share. See, that's not too bad, is it? For the record, though, it's a good thing wearing that shirt with those shoes doesn't attract enemies...
DungeonDiary isn't perfect, but the core idea is creative and massively intriguing. It's one of those games you'll come back to again and again during the day, just to see how your latest quest is going and see if you got any new clothes (er, useful bits of RPG armor) to wear. Without unleashing any spoilers, paying back your debt unlocks something nice, so keep at it and don't be afraid to explore every option the game has to offer!
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the Nexus 4. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.