I’m not a big fan of FPS games, but I figured Dead Man’s Dungeon might be kind of cool because of the fantasy theme. Besides, the screen shots looked neat and I liked the first game that the programmer was involved with, which sadly is no longer available on the App Store. Anyway, as it turns out Dead Man’s Dungeon is a somewhat sluggish, uninspired and honestly kind of boring FPS game. The graphics aren’t terrible but they certainly aren’t great either, the sound effects don’t seem to work all the time (or maybe there just aren’t effects for certain things), and I’ve yet to hear any music play during the game itself. This is one dungeon I won’t be bothering to try and escape from any time soon.
You play a prison guard that must battle hordes of dead inmates that have risen for no particular reason. The first thing to note is that there aren’t actually any live prisoners in this dungeon, which makes you wonder what they needed a prison guard for in the first place. That aside, you can choose between the Dungeon, Graveyard and Torture levels, and off you go. For me it doesn’t really matter which I choose, because it doesn’t take too many encounters before I die. Weapons and ammo seem pretty limited, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it adds to the challenge. However, it often seems like despite the fact that I have the crosshairs dead center on my target, I’m not actually hitting them when I fire. It also feels like I need to be up close for my weapon to be effective (even though guns should be ranged weapons), and naturally when I’m up close it’s easy for them to hit me as well.
You have a life meter that slowly drains when you get hit, and when it’s empty the game is over. I have not to this point run into any healing packs of any sort, but then I really haven’t gotten very far in any of the levels. The levels themselves are pretty standard fare in terms of design, and there’s nothing like keys to look for or chests to open or anything like that. There are gems to collect, though since I’ve yet to finish a level I don’t really know what the gems do. You also pick up various weapons while you’re traveling. So far I’ve found three different weapons besides the one I start with, but I’ve never found any extra ammo for the weapons. There’s an ammo meter below your health meter, and when that runs out it’s time to either find a new weapon or switch to a different one you have that isn’t empty. As for villains in the game, I’ve encountered two so far: skeletons and what appear to be enchanted pieces of armor. There are some variations in the types of weapons they use, but otherwise it’s basically two enemies. Hopefully there are more to come as you progress, but at the moment there’s nothing compelling me to put that much effort into uncovering them.
Moving around in Dead Man’s Dungeon is a combination of tilt control and a virtual on-screen control. Tilting allows you to look around your environment. The virtual control allows you to actually move and comes in two flavors: swipe pad and d-pad. The d-pad works fairly well, though it seems a bit sluggish on the default settings. The swipe pad doesn’t seem to do anything at all. There are horizontal and vertical sensitivity controls, and while adjusting those made the game feel a bit less sluggish, it also made your character jittery. To fire your weapon you use the trigger in the bottom right corner of the screen, and there is a swipe control above that to switch weapons should you have more than one. Firing seemed pretty responsive, but the accuracy was fairly abysmal, even with a crosshairs.
The game isn’t terrible visually, but I would hardly describe it as having “gorgeous 3D graphics” either. The backgrounds are okay, but their attempt at using a dreary color palette to make everything look dark and ominous really just makes things look drab and muddled. There are some nice details in the surroundings, but you usually can’t tell until you’re up too close to care. The creatures themselves look decent, but they have that “3D starter pack” feel to them. Effects for things like getting hit and shooting monsters are rudimentary at best, and the blood spurts when you get struck don’t look very good at all. The sound is okay when you can hear it, but the creatures make no noise when moving and often don’t make any sounds when being hit. The weapons sound pretty much like you’d expect guns to sound. There is music while the levels are loading, but I don’t ever seem to hear any music while I’m actually playing the game.
I was really hoping to enjoy Dead Man’s Dungeon. Unfortunately, the game just never clicked for me. Usually the controls are the worst part of an FPS in my experience, but for Dead Man’s Dungeon they were really the highlight. The game play is sub-par, the graphics are just average, and the sound is intermittent. Given recent titles like Modern Combat, Eliminate and N.O.V.A., we know what the iPhone is capable of for the FPS genre, and Dead Man’s Dungeon doesn’t really make the grade.