Tiny Dangerous Dungeons

Over the years I’ve been writing this blog I’ve reviewed a few of these games which use a deliberately old-fashioned style as a throwback to games of yore. I like to think I can approach things with at least a vague sense of awareness of what I think makes a good game and not just be suckered in with nostalgia-bait. There’s a fair amount of games that call back to the days of the NES and SNES, and some of these are amazing (I still think about Shovel Knight every now and again with a fond wistfulness), and there’s a burgeoning scene of throwbacks to the early years of 3D gaming with titles that seek to emulate the style of shooters and platformers of the time, but in between these two eras is a little console that seems to have only a quiet scene of nostalgia-infused new titles. Before this, the only title I’d yet played which sought to hearken back to the Game Boy days is Squidlit, but it’s been a good while since I dived into those wonderful green-and-black visions of the original Game Boy.

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Tiny Dangerous Dungeons (Android, iOS, PC [reviewed])

Released Mar 2019 | Developed / Published: Adventure Islands

Genre: Metroidvania | HLTB: 1 hour

So, yes, the obvious point of reference and influence for Tiny Dangerous Dungeons is the original Game Boy, Nintendo’s little (well, massive grey block) handheld that could. The green and black sprites are a deeply nostalgic sight (although if it wanted to really hit the proper full-on Game Boy throwback imagery, an option for sprite blur would be a thrilling if eye-watering reminder of those ‘90s days spent squinting at the screen in the light), although I feel like perhaps there’s a touch more detailing in the backgrounds than I remember most Game Boy games having. Still, even if that is indeed the case it’s hardly a problem; I happen to think there’s a lot of character and personality in the cracked and faded brickwork of the dungeon walls, in the leering faces with spit arrows across the halls, and in the serene statues which mark the save points. In a funny way it makes the enemies stand out all the more as their sprites are so goofy; it’s hard to take the perils of the eponymous dangerous dungeon seriously when you’re faced with bulbous, bug-eyed frogs or the strangely under-designed child-drawing piranhas which leap out of the water at you.

The idea of Tiny Dangerous Dungeons is to give a very, very condensed metroidvania experience, and it does at least hit all the required points. Our protagonist gets dropped down into the dungeon and you’re equipped with only a map to make your way through the perils ahead of you – at the beginning of the game you don’t even have a weapon to help you deal with the enemies in your path! Like any proper metroidvania, your progress is locked by the equipment or abilities you have in your possession, and you’ll need to explore along the paths that are open to you until you find something which opens up a new place for you to go. Tiny Dangerous Dungeons upgrades are largely mundane, being mostly limited to the occasional key for a locked door or some boots that let you skip across water, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing – it’s a game that was made for a game jam, so having a small and clearly defined inventory means that it’s always reasonably clear where you need to go after acquiring each upgrade.

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Of course, the other thing metroidvanias have is, without fail, backtracking. Even though Tiny Dangerous Dungeons isn’t a particularly expansive experience, there doesn’t feel like enough of any sense of escalating scale as you uncover the map, and as a result the backtracking winds up feeling a bit tedious. The dungeon never really evolves; the enemies at the end are the same as at the beginning, and as much as I like the visuals it’s also still true that it would’ve been gratifying to see something change as you delved deeper. The lack of scaling up also applies to the hazards and puzzles; sure we encounter the arrow-spitting faces after a short while and by the end the water has given way to some sort of lethal bubbling muck, but that barely feels like an appropriate endgame.

I’m a little torn with Tiny Dangerous Dungeons, I suppose. On the one hand, it was made for a game jam, and that naturally means it’s okay to expect something shorter and more concise, and in that respect it certainly lands. The concision is a strong part of Tiny Dangerous Dungeons, to be honest; its ideas are kept simple and that’s a good thing! The brevity isn’t an accident; it’s the result of careful planning and a well-applied sense of restraint. Whatever other kind of grumbles I might be able to have about Tiny Dangerous Dungeons, it still stands as a testament to the skill of its developers and their ability to build a properly-put together game in a short space of time. Unfortunately it didn’t do that much for me; I think for me it lacks a sense of flair or escalation, so the experience starts and ends in much the same way.


A game that makes you go, “Well, it’s alright…” but it’s a kind of drawn-out, unsure, and reluctant decision? These are those games. Might just be worth playing if you can get it on the cheap.

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