In all honesty, I wasn't expecting much from Tiny Dangerous Dungeons. A game developed by Finnish designer Jussi Simpanen (aka "Adventure Islands)(developer of the earlier and awesome "Tiny Guns"), TDD did a great job at softly promoting it's release this month to a few flash websites in an extraordinarily modest fashion. Even on it's info page, Simpanen doesn't dress his new game up in a pretty bow, he doesn't even offer much of an incentive to play... It's a small backstory, directions for play and that's IT. The gameboy screenshots lure potential players in like mosquitos to a buzzing lightbulb, the praising comments spark curiosity, and once you have hit "Start Game" there truly is no turning back.
Playing TDD is like playing a game somewhere in between Kirby, Zelda, and Super Mario Land for GameBoy. Players star off slowly, learning controls as they move along a frog, bat, spider, and fish filled dungeon. At first there is no attack, then you find a sword, then a few other items to get things pumping.
I am glad TDD embraced live-action playing rather than the countless "rogue like dungeon crawls" that have littered the internet this year. Upon hearing the title of TDD, I actually scrolled passed it thinking it was just another crawl for items, gems, and power-ups. I was totally mistaken. After your first acquired item, the game begins to move pretty quickly. Keys to locked doors, health upgrades, and even a Power Glove are hiding in various rooms throughout the dungeon. TDD moves players seamlessly from one objective to the next, without having to spell it out OR abandon the player.
Checkpoints are throughout Tiny Dangerous Dungeons and they should be used as frequently as possible. Death is frequent and when Little Timmy dies on his adventure, he loses all the great stuff he found along the way. A lot of commenters seemed to blame control issues on their frequent death, but I found that when you die in TDD, the only person to blame is yourself. When I plugged in my USB NES controller, gameplay was super smooth.
Along the way, TDD is not always cutely retro. The darker side of nostalgia comes out in the pretty tough puzzles involved in getting to that next stage. Keeping in mind that your weapons aren't JUST for killing and not all tranquil settings are as they seem is paramount in finding your next gate. Without revealing too much, toward the end of the game I was looking for a very well hidden key amongst attacking enemies and seemingly endless dungeon stages. I must have passed this very secret hiding place in my search a million times before noticing the "watermark" that I was looking for and once I found it I actually screamed out "OH FUCK YOU! FUCK THESE DEVELOPERS!!!"
Of course everyone here in the Basement had a good laugh because in reality, it was right in front of my face the whole time. Don't be so mission focussed. Look for the easter eggs. Adventure Islands has done a stupendous job at really stretching this map's potential.
So give it a whirl. Tiny Dangerous Dungeons has quickly risen to one of our favorite under-an-hour platformer challenges yet. It's got great style, classical gameplay, and a format that turns a mini-adventure into an unforgettable one.