Something stirs within the deep dark of Sproggiwood. The mushroom people are restless, and evil awakes. Summoned by what can only be described as a mildly eccentric forest spirit, I grab my trusty shovel and prepare to batter all manner of monsters in this charming turn-based dungeon crawler. Will I save the day? Only time will tell...
Six hours later, and I'm still battering my way through the forest, trying to save Sproggi's realm. Now though, I have a shovel that throws fire, and a motley crew of buddies that includes an archer, a thief and a vampire.
This is a deceptively deep game. The first character, the farmer, starts out with only a shovel and basic attack. Killing enemies levels him up, allowing me to improve four different powers: the ability to throw a pitchfork, place a pumpkin bomb, use a scarecrow to terrify my enemies and heal myself. Each skill has three levels which further increase my power. The pitchfork power at level two allows me to throw forks ahead and behind and the scarecrow at max level will make enemies fight each other. This allows me to play around with different attack options, always keeping in mind the stamina bar that can only be refilled by killing enemies or drinking potions. These powers reset at the beginning of every dungeon, meaning that experimentation is easy, and no two runs will play the same.
The combat is further complicated by the randomization of the weapons and items. Every run starts with the weapon and armour that I choose, and the only way to have permanent equipment is to buy it in the village shop. If not, I start with the bog-standard stuff, and have to make do until I find a chest with an item. As a fairly lightweight adventurer, I can only carry one extra item, be it a potion or a scroll. Extra stuff that I pick up can replace said item, exchanged for gold, or used in the moment. I especially like the scroll that turns enemies into treasure pots and the always useful health potion.
After finishing the first dungeon, I get access to my second character; an archer. The archer has his own set of skills and weapons, and plays in a completely different way to the farmer. Completing the second dungeon gives me a third character, and so on, until I have quite the crew assembled. I am also incentivised to repeat the earlier dungeons with the new characters, and this really lets me get a feel for the skills without getting murdered straight away by some of the bigger critters in the game.
The final element that brings depth to the game is the village. Opened up after the first dungeon, the village allows me to buy equipment for my adventurers, thus making the weapons and armour permanent, and improving the various building around town gives me different advantages in the dungeons, such as more treasure or faster XP levelling. The prices are somewhat steep, and I found myself grinding a little bit just to give myself an edge in some of the harder dungeons.
Luckily for me, grinding isn't such a bad thing in this game. The dungeons are procedurally generated, and the wealth of adventurers at my disposal mean that running back through and old dungeon for extra loot isn't really a chore. Enemies are nicely varied, and provide a solid challenge. Explosive poison spiders, fire jellies, sleepy toads and club-wielding giants are just some of the challenges that are waiting in the dark forests. If anyone knows how to defeat the twin floating goldfish, please tell me in the comments!
I think it's fair to say that I like this game a lot, having ploughed almost six hours into it in the first two days. It has a fairly gentle rhythm, not tough enough to be frustrating but difficult enough to make me think. It's easy to spend a few happy hours hitting jellies with a shovel. The atmosphere is charming, with nice art and quiet music. I am about halfway through the story, but I still have to go back and complete a few dungeons with new characters, and as I've just unlocked a vampire, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I definitely see myself returning to it over the rest of the week!