Dicey Dungeons is the latest title from Terry Cavanagh and his team, best known for the difficult games Super Hexagon and VVVVVV. It’s a hybrid dice rolling and roguelike game that is jam-packed full of charm.
You take control of dice that each embody different specialized tropes. Like a thief who can use steal powers of your enemies, or an inventor who incessantly invents new cards. It’s set in what feels like an adorable and friendly juxtaposition of 70s era game-show and children’s board book. Well, the “friendly” is only surface level—the host, Lady Luck, has you trapped, forcing you to play a rigged game forever.
Your goal is to acquire cards, defeat enemies, and level up, as you battle your way to the final boss. In battles, you roll dice and drop them onto cards that have different effects, like your attacks, magical abilities, or other things to spice up the fight. You need to make judgment calls when deck building as you progress like, do you take a big fire attack or a small poison attack that stacks?
This is a game of patient trial and error, really. In each playthrough, you go down different routes with your builds, to get to the final boss. When I fail, failure actually feels good. It’s not pure RNG that determines your failure; that would make it unsatisfying. However, when I fail, I usually can tell where I’ve gone wrong with a build. Perhaps it’s overspecializing in poison, not bringing anything along to deal with limited health, or not having a card to deal with extra dice on the table.
I’ve previously said that I’m not much of a roguelike player, but Dicey Dungeons does a pretty good job of making me feel relaxed in the genre. Most critical decisions—visiting a shop, or picking up loot—are limited to simple “either/or” scenarios, like choosing between an ice or fire attack card. I’ve never encountered a giant screen of options that I need to choose just one thing from, which would cause frictive indecision that would ultimately make an anxious person like myself grow weary of the game.
This game has a lot of repeat playthrough potential too. There are six characters, with six episodes per character, and each one changes their base traits in what seems to be simple ways. The changes in each episode actually have a dramatic effect on how you approach that run with that dice friend.
According to Steam, I’m now 10 hours into Dicey Dungeons, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in it. Thus far I’ve had successful playthroughs of the first episode for all the dice friends, and have gotten through a few second episodes too. It’ll be a game I continually pick up and try to through casually. Dicey Dungeons is available on itch.io for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and includes a Steam key.