Before I dive into what I dislike about the game, I’ll mention what I like about the game. Or at least what makes it not the worst? Aesthetic commitment. With the exception of the final boss, the entire game has the feel of you being some kind of anti-virus program cleaning up the computer (Megaman did it better though). Of course the game never mentions any kind of story so your guess is as good as mine. Maybe that’s intentional, maybe we’re supposed to make the story for ourselves to give it meaning. Maybe in twenty years programmers will no longe release games. They’ll just give you a blank screen and say, “Now imagine that some stuff is going on”… Sorry, I promised to make this the “pro” section of the review. It has a nice 1980’s arcade style going on for it. Definitely a low-budget indie game, so I admire how they worked with what they had. Now with that out of the way…
Where do we begin. Okay, so picture a song you hate. For me, that song can be… Oh, I dunno… let’s say… ehh… what’s that Taylor Swift song? Hold on – let me Google her discography…
[One Google search later] SHAKE IT OFF! THAT WAS THE SONG! Christ, I had an ex that would play that song non-stop in their car. Ouch. Anyway, picture like ten to fifteen seconds of this hated song, probably near the chorus, and loop it. This is what Dungeon of Zolthan is like. The same track, over and over again. It took me about 105 minutes to finish this game. I had to deal with that pain for over an hour and a half. And you’d think that the music would change for the boss fights right? NOPE. Okay, so the tempo increases and the pitches change… BUT IT’S THE SAME DAMN SONG. What an annoyance.
Dungeon of Zolthan is a platformer. I hate platformers. I don’t hate this game because it’s a platformer though! I hate this game because of how it implemented platforming. Super Mario is what I would call well-executed platformer. This is not a well-executed platformer. So you get enough health to take maybe two hits before dying. This is why I compared it to Super Mario. Which normally wouldn’t bother me. I mean, sure, that’s a slim margin of error, but that’s what the early arcade games were all about, right? Well it gets worse. See there are spikes. You slightly touch these spikes, you die. Instantly. Why? WHY? And it wouldn’t be bad if they weren’t EVERYWHERE. I don’t think there are a handful of ‘screens’ where there aren’t any spikes. Hell, the final boss fights you from behind spike walls through which you must dash and be careful to to dash into the wall from which they hang or else you’ll stop and hit the spikes. It’s total bogus.
Let’s talk about boss design. There are a few games with what I’d consider good boss design. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (my previous review), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (wow, I see a pattern here), and Dark Souls. These are all games in which, if you fail enough times you can just memorize the boss’s attack patterns. After knowing these attack patterns, you can react to them appropriately. There is none of that in Dungeon of Zolthan. Dungeon of Zolthan just chucks the bosses at you. It seems to have adopted Three-Phase Boss fights. The first phase where you essentially look at the boss. The second phase where they speed up attacks or themselves. And the third phase in which they do it again. The only distinguishable difference between these phases is… well… attack speed and movement speed. I don’t even know if this is really what’s going on. The attack pattern only really changed for the third boss in which jumps occurred more frequently. This is how bad the boss design. I could be making sense out of nonsense, it’s really hard to tell. It’s not good boss design.
So at the end of the day, annoying music, poor level design, and poor boss design. Thank goodness the game is only $1 or I’d say it’s overpriced. Might still be. I would definitely pass on this game. There are better platformers out there that far surpass this game. Support this game only if you want to chuck a dollar the way of an indie developer (which I support – indie developers are the life of the gaming industry). Still, don’t expect much from Dungeon of Zolthan. Sorry mate.