"Early RPGs are based on very simple principals. Throw a few goblins in some square rooms that have been neatly arranged in a grid-shape, add some weapons, maybe toss in a tavern, slap any combination of “swords,” “dungeons,” “dragons,” or “darkness” onto the title, and stick some awkward looking guy wearing blatantly homoerotic armor on the cover, then sell it to the hopeless misanthropes that buy that sort of thing. This was a trend that continued until the late 80’s, at which point developer..."
Early RPGs are based on very simple principals. Throw a few goblins in some square rooms that have been neatly arranged in a grid-shape, add some weapons, maybe toss in a tavern, slap any combination of “swords,” “dungeons,” “dragons,” or “darkness” onto the title, and stick some awkward looking guy wearing blatantly homoerotic armor on the cover, then sell it to the hopeless misanthropes that buy that sort of thing. This was a trend that continued until the late 80’s, at which point developers started to do things like “think” and “try”. NEC must have felt that doing either was somehow beneath them, and as such proceeded to develop one of the most ass-backwards RPGs ever made.
In a nutshell, Double Dungeons is Wizardry hacked, mutilated, publically shamed, and shoved into a TG-16 card. Everything that made the genre appealing has been stripped away, leaving an ugly pulp that is so unattractive I feel as though its very existence degrades other RPGs. You are a stock warrior from the Warrior Surplus Outlet who must enter repetitive dungeons repetitively for reasons like, “The warrior encountered a soaking man. What is in the dungeons?” If that didn’t hook you, how about, “The kingdom has been encroached upon by supernatural powers. The warrior goes to the dungeon.” I pray that a programmer was laughing his ass off as he typed those words.
It is painful to see the complexity of an RPG whittled down to a single button, which you press repeatedly to perform your one and only attack. Enemies are static pictures that you come across in your journey, incapable of movement and incapable of doing anything other than attacking. All they do is attack. All you can do is attack. Sometimes during a battle you will be prompted with the message “THINK!” Let me do so. What should be my next move? Well I can push this button and perform my only attack, or I can not push that button and not perform my only attack. I better check GameFAQs on this one.
There are twenty-two dungeons, twenty-one of which can be entered at any time. The only difference between each dungeon is the layout. You’ll walk back and forth down a hallway with green slimes, hammering away at the attack button until you gain a few levels. Then you’ll work your way towards more difficult enemies, and gain more levels. You’ll find the shop and buy a new weapon, then run off to gain more levels. Eventually you’ll find the mystical Unicorn Key, which opens a door. You will find said door, open it, and encounter a boss. Press the attack button rapidly for awhile until it dies or you die. You’ll be rewarded with a letter. No, not a missive; I mean an actual letter, like “Q” or “G”. This letter is part of the password that unlocks the twenty-second dungeon for play. Repeat everything in this paragraph twenty more times.
Here’s the kicker: when you beat a dungeon, you are stripped of everything you possess and reduced to experience level 1. That’s right. The reward you receive for completing a dungeon is the same reward you get for dying – actually, dying is better, since you’ll keep the experience and just lose the gold. You never get the sense of satisfaction that grinding confers in other RPGs, and since Double Dungeons is nothing but grinding, that’s pretty much the nail in the coffin. It feels like riding a bicycle up a steep hill, reaching the top, and expecting to have the pleasure of coasting down, only to be teleported back to the bottom of the hill and forced to ride back up again – except now the hill is bigger. Endure that twenty-one times, then let me know how much you like riding bikes.
Because Double Dungeons focuses less on the roleplaying and more on the action (that's RPG-nerd talk for repetitive button mashing), one would expect it to be faster in pace than other RPGs. However, in addition to the already mentioned loss of all experience and items repeatedly throughout the game, mapping out a dungeon on a piece of graph paper has been, still is, and will always be excruciatingly slow. It does not help that later dungeons are so big that they will not even fit on a single sheet of graph paper. Thankfully, there are no hidden doors or secret rooms – god forbid the player do any thinking – so your maps can be half-assed sketches of an area’s rough layout.
You can save your game at any point if you have the desire to stop playing, likely because you wish to hang yourself. And by save I mean get a long password. This will allow you to retain your experience, gold, items, and location in the dungeon, and it can be abused if you’d like to collect treasure chests repeatedly. I wouldn’t recommend doing that though since you will screw up passwords (is that a “K” or a “k”?). While we’re on the subject of technical flaws, there are only three songs in Double Dungeons, two of which cannot be heard for longer than ten seconds without causing blood to flow profusely from one’s ears. The song that plays during the actual dungeon exploring isn’t too bad for the first few minutes, but after a couple hundred loops it will begin to have an effect on the player similar to the sound of gunfire on war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Oh, and Double Dungeons looks hideous too.
I’m not even sure why it’s called Double Dungeon since there are twenty-two dungeons. I suppose Duovigenuple Dungeons would have sounded about as appealing as actually playing Double Dungeons, and honestly I think that's too much meta for a game of such poor quality. There’s also a large “W” on the title screen – not sure what the deal with that is. The “double” likely comes from the fact that you can play split-screen with a friend, assuming you have one (I do not).
Two people exploring the dungeon at once is in itself rather unique since there are so few multiplayer RPGs of this type – after all, a multiplayer first-person dungeon crawler is a stupid idea. I suppose cooperatively mapping dungeons might be amusing for about ten minutes, but any longer than that could permanently damage even the strongest relationship. This could perhaps be counteracted by playing the game with a romantic partner. Maybe if you dim the lights, turn down the volume, add some Rachmaninoff, draw a few erotic pictures on the graph paper, maybe open a bottle of wine – but really, if we have to go to such ridiculous lengths to make a game appealing, it's probably not very good.
Playing Double Dungeons is like playing a shoot-em-up with no enemies or a platformer where all you do is climb an unending staircase. It completely misses the point of an RPG entirely, which is the satisfaction the player derives from gaining experience exploring. The only reasons to play Double Dungeons are 1.) You are the hypothetical person who hates shooters but still owns a Turbografx-16 for unknown reasons, and therefore your library is severely limited; 2.) You like pushing the I button on your controller thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times; 3.) You want to play the multiplayer with a friend so that you may laugh at the game together; 4.) You have a graph paper fetish, or 5.) You have poor taste. Only number four is really a valid excuse, but there are far better uses for graph paper than this – in fact making actual graphs would probably be more entertaining. The multiplayer, much like a giant Eiffel Tower made out of French Toast, is interesting for the spectacle, but it can hardly save it. Double Dungeons is a curiosity at best, a lesson in sadism and poor design at worst, and overall an insult to my intelligence.
Featured community review by dagoss (July 08, 2008)
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