Tunnel of Doom
Developer: Antti Vaihia
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Strategy
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 23/12/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Tunnel of Doom is a unique take on the roguelike genre. It is a top-down two-dimensional dungeon crawler combined with tower defence. Before enemies start swarming each room, I was able to build defences with the resources I had accumulated throughout my adventure. Is this mashup of genres exciting enough to stand out in a sea of roguelikes? Find out in this Rapid Review.
Mine-ding my Own Business
When I first booted up Tunnel of Doom, I learned that the town mine was unsafe, and needed to be boarded up. Unfortunately, my husband was still in the mine and needed to be rescued. Thus, I began my journey down the mine. It was incredibly simple, and the story did not provide much meaningful content whatsoever. This was a bit disappointing, as the plot hints at tyranny in the cave. I would have liked to learn more about the monster world. Still, Tunnel of Doom is primarily focused on the gameplay, and thus the lack of substantial story content did not severely hinder my experience.
Instead of focusing on story and lore, the developers of Tunnel of Doom focused on the blend of the tower-defence and roguelike genres. It was interesting to see how they combined the two ideas. However, in practice, I found it frustrating.
Typically, tower defence games focus on deciding the best strategy to face a certain number of foes. There are often specific enemies that are easily countered by certain towers but are extremely effective against others. On the contrary, roguelikes feature a host of weapons and items that are versatile. Since weapons and enemies are randomly assigned, it is important that each granted item is useful in many situations. Combining these two genres is a challenging concept, as many of the strengths of each genre contradict each other.
To complement the random nature of roguelikes, the developers of Tunnel of Doom made the towers more versatile. This made each run more balanced but eliminated a lot of the strategy that comes with tower defence games. Instead of selecting my arsenal of towers to combat incoming enemies, each tower was sufficient. This made the tower defence aspect of the game less impactful than I would have hoped. I rarely theorised what to do in each room for longer than a couple of seconds. After looking at the enemies, I would simply file the enemies down a single path and place turrets within firing distance. Even though the tower defence aspect of the game is not as extensive as other games, I still had a good time experimenting with the towers and using them to my advantage.
This game was also designed around resource management. Each tower required resources to fire, as did building barriers and setting up traps. Throughout my first few runs; I was constantly concerned about my resources. I never had enough to horde off enough enemies. Concerned about my resources, in future runs, I avoided using resources whatsoever. I handled many of the enemies with melee attacks, and then tackled the rest with some firearms I found in the caverns. Though likely unintended, the strategy worked well. Then, when challenging fights came, I would have more than enough resources to manage. This made Tunnel of Doom boring. There were no interesting weapons to choose from, as the focus was supposed to be on the traps. Plus, aiming was challenging since I could not aim diagonally. I found successfully navigating the areas rewarding, but I wanted further incentives to use the traps.
Familiar Faces and Worn Out Places
Moreover, since Tunnel of Doom focused on making the game possible with all builds, the enemies were bland. They rarely had special themes or abilities. Occasionally they would spew fire or slime, but the enemies were not innovative. They were generic. The enemies would shoot projectiles or attack the area directly in front of them, but they rarely had innovative abilities. Though they were simple, the enemies clearly telegraphed their attacks. The enemies were fair and balanced. Even though they were not particularly interesting, they were satisfying to kill and required strategy to successfully eliminate.
The environments in Tunnel of Doom are no better. New locales do not change the flow of gameplay or the background substantially. Again, this is not the most pressing issue, but it further compounds the lack of variety and repetitive enemy designs.
The tedium was counteracted by the inclusion of a blessing system. These were perks that changed the way the game was structured. These incentivized certain methods of play. Since they were random, I had to adapt to the situation at hand and learn how they would impact the gameplay. They made the game interesting, but there are only fifty of them. In one run, I had collected at least twenty of them. Thus, since I collected so many, the runs were not starkly different. Still, I enjoyed collecting them and learning how my run would be impacted. They helped diversify my runs and gave me additional objects to collect.
Finally, though not abundantly prevalent, the game featured a few minor bugs. The game crashed on me once, and there were some areas with dropped frames. Still, the game performed well overall.
Over and Over
The atmosphere of Tunnel of Doom was a bit disappointing. The music was lacklustre, the rooms bland, and the enemies fail to stand out. Plus, the game is incredibly dark. Though it is not innately an issue, I personally do not enjoy dark games as much as colourful ones and found it made the experience less fun. Since each room felt the same, it made me less likely to replay the game in the future, further diminishing the value of the game. Still, the game does an excellent job at telegraphing objects of significance with the art style. Plus, there was a simple and easy to use map at my disposal. The visual design was effective though not eye-catching.
Surprisingly, even though Tunnel of Doom had a fair number of problems, I enjoyed a lot of the time I spent with the game. When I did not have enough resources, I felt frustrated and was unable to leverage one of the most crucial parts of the game. Yet, once I learned how to avoid using my resources and capitalized on my character’s strength, I was able to have a good time frivolously exerting my resources on levels. It was an interesting experience, and though I would not recommend it to everyone, I am glad I had an opportunity to play it.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase Tunnel of Doom on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.