This is a game which seems to follow a near-perfect formula to be frustrating, unfun, and unfair.
Dungeon Ascension is a rather glitchy platformer, the main draw of which is that the levels are very short and in a random order. However, the extremely incompetent programming and design has somehow managed to screw up this idea, which I thought was interesting and could serve as the basis for a fantastic game if all this thing’s millions of flaws were ironed out.
The first thing one notices is that the graphics are extremely amateurish and ruin the game’s impression even before it begins. I usually don’t give a crap about graphics, but this is really a mess. You’ve got some objects and backgrounds with different degrees of pixellation to others, some sprites look like they’ve been very lazily scaled, and I’m fairly certain some of the graphics were stolen from somewhere else. In addition, they’re boring as hell. Everything seems to be trying way too hard to be dark and moody; there is very little colour, and most of the game, at least what you’re going to see, uses a single background and a single type of platform.
One thing that isn’t screwed up is the controls. They feel great, they’re intuitive, and are very much like in Tower of Greed.
The goal on each floor is to reach the open door on the opposite side of the screen. As is expected, there are traps and other obstacles in the way. On the 10th floor and I think every 5th following that, there are bosses, which are okay but nothing special, and must be fought by throwing knives, which is very annoying; the best way to so this seems to be rapidly changing direction. Still, this is the least of this game’s problems.
The game is randomised to some degree, but it’s still the same game every time you play; you go through the same levels, just in a different order. This is the first reason why permadeath doesn’t work here; replaying it is tedious.
Glitches impact on gameplay quite severely. For instance, you can’t jump or at least not very consistently while on a downward-moving platform. It’s fairly easy to glitch into the sides of walls, and not to mention the pain that ladders cause.
The game has a poorly-crafted atmosphere. Most of the music consists of some sort of horror ambience, which doesn’t fit with the gameplay at all.
However, the most unforgivable thing of all is the godawful hitboxes. It’s damn near impossible to tell the difference between just dodging something and just clipping the edge. This, in a game with ONE-HIT-PERMADEATH.
To add even more frustration and insult, many of the floors you’ll need to go through require trial-and-error. This is the other reason why permadeath doesn’t work here. For instance, one of the first nine levels is an arrow trap which is a simialrly dull colour to the background, which shoots at you at a particular spot which requires almost inhuman reflexes to avoid if you don’t know it’s there beforehand.
A mess of poorly-selected elements and mechanics tacked onto a decent idea with even worse programming. That’s what Dungeon Ascension is. It gets a resounding “Not Worth Playing” from me.