PEGBRJE: Dungeon Nightmares II — The Memory and Flat Kingdom
Fear and Comfy-ness in Los Vegas (except not really)
Dungeon Nightmares II — The Memory a psychological horror roguelike created by K Monkey, a solo dev from the UK who delves in horror and VR, which as one might guess can make for a terrifying combination. This is also the sequel to the original Dungeon Nightmare, a title interestingly released on GameJolt and gained traction (especially among Youtube Creators) for being fiendishly scary whilst containing a unique gameplay element not seen in many horror games. As such, players are treated to a little explanation on Pavor Nocturnus, more commonly known as Night-Terrors, before finding themselves in an unlit dungeon-like basement with no way of knowing who or what is within.
That unique gameplay element? Random generation. See, each descension via that rickety elevator leads to the same yet different dungeon, rooms rearranged in different ways and elements being in different locations or not present at all in the current state. Every ‘escape’ from the dungeon basement brings players back to their apartment, retaining any clues or items that they may have found to utilize within the real world. Once ready, players can return to the elevator to descend once again, finding a new set of rooms and terrors to discover. While down there players only have a map, which only reveals the local area and tracks player progress with a line, and a really poor lighter that does a better job blinding the player than actually giving vision. Candles can be discovered which can be lit by the lighter, but are limited in use meaning that finding them is a constant priority in order to see better — granted, I found the lighting to get even scarier with a candle lit, so that wasn’t a great moment.
While in the dungeon is where the elements of the unknown start to become known the longer players reside. Hints and clues are scattered throughout in a variety of ways from paintings, pictures, notes and more — but all of them are designed to mislead and tell half truths. They are there to tell enough of a story to string the player along without giving them the whole picture as to why we seem stuck in a perpetual loop of night-terrors, all the while giving fuel for the tension in the air. At first it is the lack of visible scares that creates the most fear, as the darkness gives away nothing but outlines of the walls allowing the mind to run rampant. A few light flickers here and there before a seemingly mundane object makes a sudden noise to cause sheer panic. However the farther one goes to uncover ways to escape this cycle, the more unexplainable occurrences appear, and Dungeon Nightmares II does a fantastic job of building up that constant tension. One is never sure what exactly will kill them, given all of the possibilities and notes that indicate to various different possibilities. Is it lingering within a dungeon for too long, making a wrong decision, or is it simply if the player stops moving? The questions will continually compile, and that’s when the paranoia-induced indecision makes its move.
At least, so I would assume — as I’ve said before, I am utterly awful at horror titles. I freak out way too easily, and tension builds itself in me much faster than many of my friends and colleagues. I’m able to pull it apart and understand how this would be stretched across a longer timeline, but ultimately cannot survive in the moment. Thankfully there were others that I was able to witness to confirm my assumptions on how certain aspects of the title worked.
After the last horror title I played I was sure that I was beginning to get a grip on my ability to play through the entire genre, but Dungeon Nightmares II — The Memory brutally ruined any tolerance I may have built up. The roguelike nature actually works beautifully to recreate the balance of down time and scares by giving players an open-endedness to their actions, the ability to simply wander through the maze without having any direction. This causes that downtime to create an extraordinary amount of tension, since every corner looks the same, yet every dungeon crawl feels different at the same time. Since everything is within an enclosed environment, however, there’s no fear of worrying about players getting lost or frustrated with not knowing where to go. If you can survive the horror, you can uncover what exactly ‘the Memory’ is, but unfortunately I can’t help you with that one. I’ve already tapped out; it’s up to you now.
Flat Kingdom is a platforming adventure made by Fat Panda Games, an indie studio out of Mexico, with publishing assistance by Games Starter. Players follow lovable adventurer named Flat within the Flat Kingdom — except he’s not royalty so that’s a bit confusing — as he attempts to rescue the kidnapped princess and save the magic gem before their world becomes too 3D.
Flat is a unique character within this realm, for he has the ability to shapeshift in to the three great shapes of the 2D world; square, triangle and circle. These three allow him to traverse the platforming puzzles and challenges through their unique properties, which make up the core of the gameplay. The fastest shape, triangle, is light yet fragile, able to ramp up in speed to traverse great distances faster than any other. Circle is the balanced shape, able to double jump and will be the mainstay of the platforming sections due to the necessity for a double jump the majority of the time. Finally is the sturdy square, able to take hits from projectiles with ease, push heavy objects and be slow as a tortoise. Switching between the three at opportune moments is crucial to making the way across the world, such as double jumping before switching to square to do a ‘ground pound’ and break flimsy boards, or switch between them all while swimming since none of them can control their vertical movement. It’s quite fun to switch between them midair to pull off proper maneuvers, and brings all of the moves gained together for a final boss fight.
There is also the ‘weapon triangle’, where certain shapes defeat others when it comes to enemies since Flat was not given an actual weapon. Triangles pop circles thanks to their lack of protection, while triangles are destroyed by the impenetrable square who is then also defeated by the purity that is a circle. This is a bit confusing at first, especially since the enemies embody the shapes rather than being directly a singular shape like Flat, but the patterns of the animals help to distinguish them; well, and the game thankfully includes a little icon above enemies for players to immediately distinguish what shape they are so there is no confusion.
Flat’s journey won’t be an easy one, for the world continually pops out under his feet as he attempts to capture the thief so that the world remains flat and harmonious for years to come. It’s expansive with many levels and regions to visit and traverse, boasting a dozen regions to visit and secrets hidden throughout the world in places that require some careful thought to discover. There are even multiple paths to take at times to add to the fun of exploration, with side quests, coins, upgrades and lore all scattered throughout. If the soundtrack sounds familiar, that would be because it’s by Manami Matsumae of Mega Man and Shovel Knight, which perfectly accentuates the soft yet adventurous spirit of the title. If you’re a fan of exploration platformers with puzzles and a thorough mechanic, this is definitely one to try out for yourselves.
NOTICE: The controller support is borked.
I rarely like talking about technical aspects in these overviews as I want to give design and developmental reasons why people should try these titles, but in this case it’s somewhat severe. This game was designed around a gamepad, as indicated by the popup at the beginning recommending one — it even had a Dualshock visual which made me believe that it had native DS4 support. Unfortunately, upon entry the icons were replaced with blank white boxes instead of the normal X and O button prompts. Getting past the initial screen it becomes apparent that the controller is taking inputs since we can input a button command and get passed the ‘press any button to continue’ screen, but the game just doesn’t recognize them in the slightest come the actual menu screens. This isn’t like my usual issue with DS4 and it’s bizarre spinning joystick issue, but instead seems to be a case of the controller support just being crossed out and left unfunctional. It’s a shame because the keyboard support is good, but feels a bit awkward in comparison to the gamepad layout.
Links to both
Dungeon Nightmares II - The Memory
http://www.dungeonnightmares.com Dungeon Nightmares II is a first-person psychological horror that takes you through a…