Roguelike games and dungeon crawlers have been around for a long time, both digital and physical. Whether it’s something as simple as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series or as complex as Dungeons and Dragons, there’s nothing like exploring various dungeons and labyrinths looking for treasure with things getting more intense and dangerous the deeper you go. While my experience with roguelikes is kind of on the slim side, I’ve been hearing good things about Tangledeep and since I’m a sucker for 8-bit and 16-bit games, Tangledeep on the Switch sounds right up my alley.
Before you even begin diving into the labyrinth itself, you have a few decisions to make, the first being the difficulty. When choosing a new game you can choose from three options: Adventure Mode where you’ll return to town when your HP reaches zero and you’ll lose half of your money, unspent Job Points, and XP progress, Heroic Mode where when you die the game ends and you’ll lose everything except for banked goods and town progress, and Hardcore Mode where death is one hundred percent permanent and everything you’ve done will be erased. If you’ve never played a roguelike game before, or Tangledeep in general, it’s probably best to go with Adventure Mode.
After that it’s time to choose your job. There are nine to choose from at the start with three more to unlock. Each job has different abilities as well as passive bonuses to learn, and each one will also show the difficulty in using them, from Easier to Hard. Following that you can pick two feats from a list of nine with three more locked from the start. You can also have the game pick two random feats for you. Before you hit Finished at the bottom of the screen, you can modify the game even more with some optional modifiers. There are thirteen or so modifiers you can turn on or off to make the game easier or harder on yourself such as regenerating health outside of combat, having monsters regenerate health, or having monsters no longer drop gold when defeated. Once you’ve decided on your feats and modifiers, you have one decision left to make: your name. Once that’s done it’s time to finally begin.
You begin the game at Riverstone Camp where you can do a few things before heading into Tangledeep itself and right away you’ll notice one of the more interesting quirks about the game: the movement. Tangledeep is kind of a turn-based game in that every time you make a move (at least inside of the labyrinth), enemies will make a move. By default you hold the analog stick in any of eight directions and hit A to move to that spot, or if an enemy is nearby you can press A to attack with a melee weapon and Y to use a ranged weapon if one is equipped. Thankfully the movement itself can be changed to just moving around with the analog stick, but movement is still tile based regardless of the control style. I have no real issues with the default movement style, but once I switched over to just using the analog stick it felt a lot better to me.
Before you dive into the dungeon, it’s worth taking the time to wander around the camp. You’ll find the usual places to shop for items and food, as well as a place to bank your items and gold for a fee. You’ll also find someone giving out rumors which are kind of like little side-quests you can do as you make your way through the labyrinth. You can have up to three rumors at any one time once completed, you gain any rewards instantaneously. Rewards range from experience to job points to gold and more, so checking out the rumors is a great way to help level up, especially in the early going and if you’re playing on any mode except Adventure.
Going south from the main part of the camp will take you to another area where you can plant seeds to grow trees and harvest goods from them, as well as get a lesson on how to add monsters to your party. To clarify that last statement a bit, you can purchase hammers, then while exploring the labyrinth and fighting enemies, get an enemy down to at least fifteen percent health remaining without knocking them out entirely, then just bonk them on the head with the hammer. Successfully doing this will let you gain a new companion you can take into the labyrinth with you. In the southern part of the town you’ll see a ranch-like area where your new friend is happily running around. You can take the little critter with you, groom it, feed it, pet it, and call it George. However, failing to care for your new companion and/or letting it run out of HP in the labyrinth will cause it to feel kind of disappointed in you and you’ll have to cheer him up before you can take him back out of the ranch again.
As for traversing the labyrinth itself, movement is grid-based as stated earlier and as you’re moving, so are any enemies that happen to spawn. Combat is as simple as getting in the proper range and attacking (A for melee, Y to use a ranged weapon). After defeat they may drop treasure or loot such as weapons and armor that you can equip and use right away. As you defeat enemies you’ll gain experience and job points and with enough experience you’ll soon level up. Job points can be used on a variety of things such as healing at the camp or, and probably more importantly, learning new skills. Some of these skills are passive while others need to be used in combat, but each skill might require a certain amount of energy or stamina depending on what kind of skill it is. Don’t worry if you end up not liking the skill you chose as you can always swap skills back at the camp. However, while any skills learned might be kept for that job, any job points earned with one job can’t be used with another. Something that took me a while to figure out was once you learn a non-passive skill, press X to go to your skill hot bar to select and use a skill.
While running around you can also pull up a sub-menu to create a portal back to town, make a turn pass without doing anything (useful when using something that heals over time), or take a drink from your flask. Your flask can only hold a certain number of uses at a time but you’ll occasionally come across fountains where you can refill a couple of drinks. Each drink, like other healing items, take effect over a few turns. Since you can hit the minus button to pull up a map of the area (hit it three times for a transparent map), you can see if it’s safe to take a drink and wait a few turns before continuing. The fourth option on your sub-menu just takes you to another sub-menu with options for healing items and a menu for your pet if you have one. The aforementioned town portal takes you back to the camp around ten turns after using it, so you still have to make sure you don’t die before it activates.
I don’t have many complaints about Tangledeep. There’s a lot more going on with the game outside of just a typical roguelike dungeon crawler. Sure you have your typical enemies to defeat, bosses to fight, and loot to acquire, but that’s just part of what makes Tangledeep an enjoyable game. You have the rumors you can complete, monsters to befriend and help you as you explore deeper into the labyrinth, seeds to plant and harvest, jobs to experience with their own unique skills to learn, and later on you can unlock the ability to even power up your items. This does have a cost however and it does take you into a separate area where if you die, it’s still game over (provided you’re on Heroic or Hardcore mode). I really only have a couple of nitpicks, the first of which was that my first death wasn’t to a boss or even an enemy. In the labyrinth you may come across a big gold chest. This is a Pandora’s Box and opening it might yield treasure…or something that can damage you. Thanks to my low health level at the time, my first death came from opening one of these. Not the best way to go out. The other minor nitpick comes from how if you have the map open and anything triggers a dialog box, the map will close and you have to hit the minus button again to reopen it.
Tangledeep is an excellent game with a lot of replayability depending on how difficult or easy you want to make it. The graphics look pretty good and the music is enjoyable. Gameplay-wise it can take some getting used to whether you use the default style of movement or you change it to free-moving along the grid. Most floors will have respawning enemies so if you feel under-leveled you can always go back to lower floors and grind a bit, but if you do the side-quests you shouldn’t really have to grind all that much. If you’re looking for a good roguelike game with plenty of options you can tailor to your liking and skill level, Tangledeep should have exactly what you’re looking for in some way.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.