Thursday, August 12, 2021

Matter of Import 55: Demon Dungeon (1980 Program Power)

 Demon Dungeon is a tactical text-based adventure games with very light role-playing elements for the Acorn Atom. The player finds themselves trying to escape from a five-level monster-filled dungeon. Each level is a 50x50 grid, presented to the player as a textual map showing a 10x10 section at a time. Each cell in the grid is shown as a number representing the chance that the player will encounter something at that point.

The game is played entirely by keyboard using N, S, W, and E compass directions to navigate the dungeon. If and when a monster is encountered, the player has three options: they can cast a spell with S, throw a magic stone with T, or run away with R. Any given monster has a 10% chance to resist a spell or stone, and if both options fail the player is forced to run - which, unfortunately, has a 25% chance of killing the player and ending the game. There are no hit points, damage, weapons, or armor; it is entirely a zero-sum proposition.

On any given level the exit is hidden somewhere in the 50x50 grid. Finding it is a matter of searching, but the game does provide some help - the UI provides a Status line, which is either Blue or Red: Red if you’re heading towards the exit, Blue if you’re not. You may also, as you travel, find treasure (coins, and jewels) or magic stones to replenish your stock. If you do manage to escape, you’re given a score based on treasure recovered.

Ultimately, as you may have figured out, gameplay is paper thin - there’s no real difference between the monsters you may encounter, and your chance to kill each is equally random. There’s only one strategy possible - search for the exit, trying to cast spells on monsters as you encounter them, throwing stones until you run out, and then trying to run and hoping you’re not forced to start over. Where it doesn’t matter prioritize cells with a low chance for encounter; all things being equal you won’t find as much treasure, but the more encounters you face the greater the chance you’ll have to start over.

That’s it, that’s all there is. As an Acorn Atom game it’s not too bad, if you don’t mind the lack of depth.

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