Review by Bill Wood

"A blessed experience."

It's easy to lower one's expectations when it comes to one-dollar indie titles. After all, how difficult is it to have a dollar's worth of fun? It's hard to argue blowing a buck on an indie game when that same buck won't even buy you a decent cup of coffee. Having said that, there are indie games out there that go above and beyond the call, games that give you a ridiculous amount of value for a very small amount of dough. Cursed Loot is one of these games.

I'm sure there are better words to describe the Cursed Loot (formerly Epic Dungeon) experience, but since those words escape me at the moment I'll give it to you the best way I know how; imagine Diablo on the NES. This is your basic dungeon-crawling, treasure-looting game experience done in a retro 8-bit style. And it is both refreshing and totally addicting.

Actually, based on my own experience, the game Cursed Loot most closely resembles is Torchlight, a single-player game that puts you in the role of an adventurer navigating a series of randomly-generated dungeon levels. The further you progress, the tougher the challenge. There is a heavy emphasis on looting and exploration, and looking for the quickest exit will often leave you unequipped to deal with the challenges waiting below.

There are a few character classes to choose from as you start your journey (I preferred the Goblin as his regen skills saved my hide several times early on), but the leveling system really lets you build the type of character you want regardless of your initial choice. Weapon, armor and accessory finds are plentiful, and much of the game's appeal comes from finding (or buying) that new sword that you know is going to come in handy in just a few seconds.

Playing on Normal difficulty, I found Cursed Loot to be fairly tough. Even though I took my time, making sure to explore every nook and cranny and grab every armor/weapon upgrade and wisely use hallways for chokepoints, there were levels when I felt immediately overwhelmed and even a steady diet of health potions couldn't save me from the dreaded "Game Over" screen. I say "dreaded" because there are no continues or checkpoints to speak of in Cursed Loot, you can save for the purpose of coming back to the game later, but that save also auto-deletes so that any type of in-game death means you'll be starting all over again from Level 1. On the upside, your place of death is marked by a tombstone, and returning to this area will reward you with a piece of loot you left behind upon your demise. I thought this was a really nice touch.

In addition, many levels feature mystery areas marked with a "?", which challenge you with a decision. For example, do you heal the dying goblin with a health potion or do you leave him to rot? These decisions can have dire consequences, at times I was presented with a nice reward for making the smart choice, other times I was beset a host of villains that had me dead within seconds. I'm not sure if it was due to my lack of preparation or just plain making a rotten choice, but there were instances where I felt that making the wrong decision led to a cheap and untimely death.

From an audiovisual standpoint, Cursed Loot is pretty much what you would expect from an 8-bit-styled dungeon adventure. How appealing this is to you probably depends on how much you appreciate games from that era. Personally I found it charming, if lacking in detail.

I can't find anything truly negative to say about Cursed Loot . Sure the difficulty is steep, but there's always Easy Mode for those who simply want to breeze through (and Hard Mode for you gluttons for punishment out there). There are also a variety of Awardments (read: Indie Achievements) to keep you coming back for more. All-in-all, the game does a fantastic job of recreating the modern dungeon crawling experience in a retro environment, and at the price point of a measly buck, it's absolutely worth owning.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/18/12

Game Release: Cursed Loot (US, 08/22/11)

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