Jussi Simpanen, the same man who previously released the well received Duke Dashington (our review), has once more presented us with yet another pixelated mobile offering. This time — in a sequel to his earlier Newgrounds hit: Dangerous Dungeons — you must take control of Timmy, an adventurer (not to be confused with a thief) exploring ruins for treasures and ability upgrades. The entire end result — which we will henceforth call Tiny Dangerous Dungeons (out now, $0.99) — is heavily reminiscent of both Metroidvania style game play, as well as ancient Game Boy style LCD graphics.
The controls for Tiny Dangerous Dungeons are simple enough: with left/right movement buttons on end of the screen, and a solitary jump command on the device’s opposite side. With these you’ll explore a multi-tiered dungeon where — initially — your only defense will be to craftily jump around any obstacle you comes across, bet it water — spikes — or various breeds of monsters. Eventually you’ll gain access to new powers — such as the ability to jump on enemies, walk on water, see a map of the entire dungeon, or even toss deadly daggers — that will slowly increase the portions of the dungeon you can reach.
Occasionally during your journey you’ll find Goddess Statues, and you can simultaneously save your progress — and restore your health — by pressing the jump button while standing next to one of these. There is no automatic save feature in Tiny Dangerous Dungeons, so you’ll instead have to find your own precarious way back to the nearest Goddess save point if you intend to safely keep that new shiny bauble you just found. Thankfully the next check point is never terribly far away, yet this system can certainly make your return trip extra stressful when you know there’s a series of dangerous jumps along the way and you’re down to your last heart.
Although you can easily figure out how to get almost anywhere once you have both the map and the tools needed, there are four extra hidden rooms that you’ll have find entirely on your own. Only observant players will notice the subtle clues pointing to where they must go, and even then some of these hidden places are downright frustrating to reach even when you do actually know where you’re going. You’ll definitely want to plunder all of these obscured areas — however — as they each contain within themself a single Heart-Fruit, each of which permanently extends your health bar by one.
All of this — both in terms of visuals, accompanying music, and even graphical sensibilities — have all gone a long way to make you feel as though you’re actually playing a lost Game Boy title. While many games have claimed to be retro, and some have even attempted to replicate the Game Boy’s all green color palette, being pixelated by itself isn’t really the same as truly replicating how older systems visually looked. Other than lacking the blur trails that generally made the Game Boy nearly impossible to see clearly (at least when things were moving), many of the limitations that defined how those older games looked are all accurately recreated within Tiny Dangerous Dungeons.
Another thing that was often a hallmark of Game Boy games is that they were commonly short affairs, and — if someone truly knew what they were doing — could usually be finished within around thirty minutes. Perhaps the only downside to Tiny Dangerous Dungeons is that it shares this design philosophy as well, with the entire affair being easily finishable in a single night (or even far less, once you know what you’re doing). The game has even capitalized upon the fact that you could easily speed run it once you know what you’re doing, and has thus included a separate Time Trial mode that challenges you to see just how quickly Timmy can conquer the entire dungeon.
If Tiny Dangerous Dungeons’ lack of endless content doesn’t bother you, and you’ve additionally been looking for a retro game that actually understands how classic games truly looked, then Jussi Simpanen’s game of exploration is one that I fully recommend.
iFanzine Verdict: Jussi Simpanen has done an exemplary job creating a game that feels like an actual Metroidvania style experience from the classic Game Boy days, both in game play mechanics and visual quirks. Although the game is fun, the experience is admittedly on the somewhat short side and many will probably finish Tiny Dangerous Dungeons within a single night. Those who enjoy speed running can then attempt to see just how fast they can finish the game’s Time Trial mode, but — more likely than not — odds are that most players will simply move on once they win.