The very first game I can recall ever calling my favourite of all time was a dungeon crawler for the PlayStation 2, Dark Cloud, and over the last decade or so the genre seems to have completely died out. Not to be confused with faster paced looter games such as Borderlands, dungeon crawlers will have you meticulously scouring every corner of some godforsaken ruin in the hope of finding an identical weapon to your current one. The reward for this is that it might have one additional attack stat in damage, in order to justify the time you are spending in the afore mentioned scour.
The only traditional dungeon crawler I can think of without resorting to Google is Hunted: The Demon’s Forge from 2011 (OK that bit I Googled), a game I never played due to the overwhelming mediocrity with which everyone who played it lamented. Ten years have passed since the release of that game, and now here we are with a brand new proudly labelled dungeon crawler released for the Nintendo Switch in August of this year, Moonshades.
Taking place in the kingdom of Harten, now being overrun by demons from another realm, you take control of two protagonists who you play as simultaneously from a first person perspective. These characters are the titular Moonshades, who I named Thomas and Martha after Batman’s parents, and they interact with each other and the environment frequently as you progress through text boxes with the odd line of spoken dialogue sprinkled in, such as when they are low on health.
Created by solo developer Viktor Domonyi, Moonshades was originally conceived as an old school dungeon crawler / RPG for mobile devices, but has since received a port to the Switch since the initial release in 2019. Upon loading the game and reading through the brief pre-game back story text crawl, you are immediately thrust into the first dungeon of the game, the Tomb of the Cruel Wolf, to fend for yourself. For me, natural gamer instinct swiftly kicked in, and after pressing every button on my Switch I quickly learned how to navigate around, through the menus and how to interact with different pieces of information and items scattered throughout the opening level.
Sound design is appropriately minimal considering this started out as an exclusively mobile game, and maybe it is because graphical capability has grown in the long time since I last played a game on my phone (which wasn’t the original Angry Birds) but I was pleasantly surprised by the graphical quality Moonshades brings to the table.
Every attack and ability has a cooldown, and so those planning on button mashing to victory will find themselves thwarted at the first hurdle, and must return their mindset to that of nineties and noughties turn based combat, where you can only act when the game allows you to. It didn’t take long to unlock a couple of new abilities for my characters, and within minutes of my first death I was back on my feet and grinding my enemies into the dirt.
Upon death you are greeted with a number of option of how to be revived, and as I’m completely against the use of paying real money for in-game assistance, I chose to respawn at the beginning of the dungeon after taking a hit to experience and accrued gold. I’m not too keen on this in practise, but as it serves well to raise the stakes when you are low on health, which can be fully restored from limited points you discover as you explore, it meant I would take more care when playing to avoid losing any progress I had worked towards.
After encountering what I imagine is the first boss of the game, a spider that looks like the others I’d been smearing across the walls until that point except with legs thicker than the EA marketing team, I have had to return to the ‘crawl’ part of the game to grind up better gear and abilities until such a time that I will be able to take it on without losing anymore of my gold.
Moonshades is currently selling for £14 on the Nintendo eShop, so with that in mind I would recommend waiting to purchase this game when it is in a sale with 30% off or more to be worth the money I would have paid had Respawning not received a code. There is fun to be had here and it more than lives up to its mission statement, delivering a healthy return to form for the dungeon crawler genre and gaining a thumbs up from me. I score Moonshades