Numismatists, reluctant soft drink abstainers and casual gamers take note. Here is a game that will quench your thirst for a solo adventure- delivered as a novel carbonated currency themed app. Welcome to Soda Dungeon.
As a savvy medieval wayfarer, you recognize the nearby foreboding dungeon for the source of gold, and monsters, that it is. However, unwilling to get your hands dirty, you’ve eyeballed a local tavern as the perfect location to hire a fighting force. Frequented only by crack addicts (oh, sorry, soda junkies), the tavern is in desperate need of an upgrade. So, you partner with the publican and invest in new furniture, new décor, a new kitchen, and some of the finest drink around… some questionably named soda!
With your ever-changing fighting force of soda slurpers, you venture into the dungeon and engage in turn based combat with wave after wave of monsters- earning gold, and often equipment for each foe defeated. There are mini-bosses every 5 levels, and hit point heavy bosses every 10 levels, with a new dimension being unveiled after 100 levels.
A contender for the best feature of this game is the humour. The names of the tavern-endorsed sodas, the appearance of the fighters, the concept that soda can be used as currency and the juxtaposition of the cheerful stereotypical-looking medieval tavern with the exaggerated, foreboding, giant-skull adorned volcano-castle-dungeon monstrosity situated almost directly next door are all welcome tongue-in-cheek additions to the game, and create a light-hearted feel to a game that could have taken itself too seriously.
Quality self-aware humour aside, it was the audiovisual components of Soda Dungeon that schweppt me up. The 8-bit graphics of the game may seem inferior in a market where high quality visuals are the standard but in this case they have an endearing retro quality- a nice homage to the ’80s arcade brawlers. What’s more, this retro focus continues audibly with chip tune “8 bit” elements complementing guitars and strings to drive the tension and suspense of dungeon battles. The real winner in the audio department, though, is the tavern music- a jaunty, bebop jazz melody with a hint of ragtime that is guaranteed to have you bobbing your head and ready for some dungeon brawling.
Unfortunately, the combat system is very basic and the process of clearing dungeon after dungeon is both repetitive and simplistic. The fact that there is an ‘auto combat’ option should be an indication of just how involved the actual battle component is, especially at the beginning of the game.
The game can, however, be appreciated for its managerial aspects- as there are initially some complex decisions to be made at the tavern. Which party members to hire, which weapons to equip to your party members, and how to prioritize tavern upgrades within your measly gold budget are all important decisions that can accelerate or hinder your progression through the dungeons.
My personal tip is to invest in stools and tables first, then the wizard, then new sodas and casks. Given that your party has priority attack (unless ambushed), having a full party of 5 (achieved through attracting more patrons via stools and tables) means you can knock out all members of an enemy force in the earlier dungeons before they can deal any damage.
The armoury seems like an almost pointless upgrade, and is perhaps a design flaw of Soda Dungeon. When enemies are defeated, they often drop equipment that is more powerful than that which is offered at the armoury. The only reason to upgrade the armoury would be to gain the liquidate option (the ability to sell every item you own until you have 5 left), which is useful but not essential.
Even though the in-game cost of upgrades at the tavern is initially frightful, after 10 to 20 levels the gold earned during dungeon battles ramps up quickly, and all upgrades seem achievable (except the novelty VIP items unlocked at level 50, which are ridiculously expensive). At this point the game becomes a repetitive slog against the same enemies, trying to earn enough gold to purchase the most expensive upgrades.
After 100 levels you are transported to a new dimension- creatively named dimension 2- which has all the same features as dimension 1 except all your gold, all your equipment, all your soda upgrades, and all the dungeon clears you have achieved throughout the game. The vaguely interesting concept of monster essences is introduced but the game reset is crushing and feels like a cheap way to keep players soldiering on.
On the other hand, one refreshing aspect is that there are no pay walls, and no real pressure to spend real world soft drink money on in-app purchases.
Can-clusion: Soda Dungeon is a fun little app game with a unique concept, a keen sense of humour and a nostalgic retro feel. The combat quickly becomes as dull and repetitive as a medieval dungeon, so the game is best enjoyed in short bursts (just like soda should be!) However, there is no need for monetary or emotional involvement, which makes this is an ideal game for casual gamers looking for a drizzle of sugar-free entertainment.