Roguelikes are often considered the natural enemy of casual gamers. The ages-old genre has a reputation for endless dungeons and painfully difficult enemies layered on top of obscure keyboard commands to do everything from scratch your elbow to quaffing a potion. To top it all off, classic roguelikes use ASCII graphics, which might as well be a parade of LOLcat speak. Even if you smack some artwork on top of the game, no one puts "roguelike" in the same sentence with "I have five minutes to spare, I guess I'll go play a (blank). Just to relax.".
That's where Pixel Dungeon comes in. This free dungeon crawling RPG aims to be a roguelike anyone can play, all without stripping itself of everything that makes crawling through randomly generated sewers an entertaining event. All you need to do is tap the screen to move across the tiles, wiping away the darkness to reveal walls, doors, items, treasure, and an enemy or three (teeth gnashing, be careful!). Manage over 50 different pieces of items and equipment to ensure you can handle the punishment you'll take, then try to stay alive long enough to crawl deeper within the prison.
Pixel Dungeon hits a very nice sweet spot between mindlessly casual and intelligently retro. It manages to preserve the feeling of mysterious loot and dangerous enemies hiding behind the shadows, encouraging you to explore but never giving you enough power to charge through without a care. You're not helpless, of course, but you're not invincible, either. Pixel Dungeon is missing a few extras that could help round out the experience, like additional character classes and background music, but creator watabou has promised these things and more in the future. Dive in now for a great mobile roguelike, then hang on for some very promising developments in the future!
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.