Dungeon Highway: What We Think
Dungeon Highway by Substantial Inc. may not sound like your average endless runner; you play as a wizard who is constantly running forward through dungeons in the form of highways that are filled with creatures to shoot and pillars to avoid.
Your aim, in Dungeon Highway, is to stay alive while negotiating your way through the procedurally-generated, lightly themed levels. It’s designed to feel like a score-based retro game akin to Space Harrier, which relies on its fun mechanics to keep you playing. But does Dungeon Highway do enough to keep you engaged?
You can shoot enemies like ghosts or pirates that block your path while grabbing power-ups along the way. The power-ups mix things up a bit by slowing down time, or adding extra firepower to your attacks. The goal is to get as far as possible while racking up your score by blasting as many baddies as you can manage without crashing into something. Once you get hit, your pixelated blood leaves a thin trail as your pixelated body slides to a morbid stop. You are then shown your final score.
There is no story whatsoever, but it would have been nice to see some characterization or a little world-setting context. I feel the game would have benefited from additional world building elements to keep you engaged and wanting to play more, since there is no character progression or even leaderboards.
Beware! The Fare is Bare
Tilting your phone to move the wizard left or right and tapping the screen to shoot feels great and responsive, just make sure you have elbow room. The game’s simplified controls make it easy to jump in, but its simplicity is also its downfall, leaving much to be desired after you’ve played it for a couple of minutes, which is unfortunate, since the game handles so well.
Deja Vu 2.0
Dungeon Highway’s visuals don’t help add a lot of incentive to play more either. Though the large pixel style is nicely rendered, the dungeon highways all look the same, but for a couple of color palette swaps. The backgrounds are always black no matter what randomly generated track you face.
Every dungeon – from the Ethereal Plaguelands to the Dark Mines – have the same looking tall pillars to avoid, with enemies scattered around here and there. The developers missed the opportunity to modulate the tracks, perhaps adding staircases leading up or down, loops, secret rooms, pitfalls or other spatial variations.
The sound effects are high quality and embellish with the visuals effectively. For example, the sound effect that plays when an enemy explodes is nice and thick with the right amount of distortion. The game only features one song, which is a shame because it’s well composed and fits in with everything else. Dungeon Highway does a nice job creating a cohesive auditory and visual experience.
Dungeon Highway is too simplified to keep you engaged for long. You end up having fun for a couple of minutes before the tedium sets in. It’s a good pick-up-and-play game, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good score-based title, but don’t expect much else from this one.