Dungeon Marathon
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 6

A hag has tricked a Warrior, Valkyrie, Wizard, and Dwarf into thinking that perilous dungeons are actually gyms and players must help the unarmed heroes make it through them unscathed. This involves dodging or running away from hazards and enemies while collecting keys to open gates and grabbing apples to stay healthy. Apart from a poison mechanic and a few power-ups that is all there is to the game, but while short-lived Dungeon Marathon can be fun and is certainly quite unique.

Gameplay: Instead of fighting, players must run for their lives while trying to find the exit to each short dungeon.

Graphics: The retro-style visuals have a certain nostalgic appeal, but are still very basic and not that memorable.

Sound: The music and sound effects get the job done, but neither stand out in any way

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Dungeon Marathon

Developer: Retro Army Limited | Publisher: paulstephendavis | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Action / Indie | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam

Not many people would mistake a dungeon for a gym, but that’s exactly what happens in Dungeon Marathon. A Warrior, Valkyrie, Wizard, and Dwarf are all tricked by an old hag into thinking that the trap-filled dungeons they are venturing into are actually free gyms. Thus, players are handed control of one of the hapless heroes and tasked with navigating them safely through these death-dealing gauntlets unscathed. Unfortunately, it’s not just their powers of perception that are lacking, but their combat skills too, so each dungeon must be braved completely unarmed.

While the story might not make any sense, having to run through dungeons while avoiding everything instead of fighting and looting is a pretty unique premise for a game. Dungeon Marathon also adds an additional twist to the tale with the inclusion of poison apples. Players must collect these to refill their ever-decreasing life-bars and only by collecting all the apples in a dungeon will they receive the coveted 3-star rating. However, each collected apple also increases the poison percentage of that character and if it ever reaches 100%, which can happen quicker than players might realize, they die for good. The only way to avoid this from happening is by also collecting the cash strewn about the dungeons and using 999 coins to purchase a complete detox before it is too late. The poison mechanic was presumably added to motivate players not to stick to a single character, but to alternate between the four. There are some minor differences between them in terms of speed and health points, but three of the characters have to be unlocked first.

In terms of gameplay, Dungeon Marathon is extremely simple and all players have to do is avoid enemies and traps while running for the exit. To prevent this from being too easy the dungeons are filled with enemies that can pop up from clearly marked spots as well as environmental hazards such as floor traps and projectile shooting traps. Some dungeons also have gates that bar the progress of players until they have found the corresponding key while others feature things like teleporters that can disorient players. The dungeons are not too complicated, though, but players can only see a map of the layout before entering them and not while inside them. There are also a few levels where the characters automatically run from the bottom of the screen to the top and all players have to do is steer them left or right to avoid the obstacles and grab the apples.

Although making it to the exit of each dungeon alive is enough to complete the level it will typically only net players a single-star rating. To make it to three stars, players must not only complete the level but also avoid getting hit even once by enemies and collect every single poison apple. Fortunately, the amount of remaining apples is clearly indicated, so players will know when they have them all and can make a beeline for the exit. The incentive for getting three stars is usually some bonus cash, which is always useful. The exception is the final dungeon, where players must complete each level with a three-star rating using the same character in order to complete the game and unlock the “Hard” mode. With only 42 levels in total, this is not a complicated feat and most players should be able to run through the game in an hour or two on the “Normal” difficulty setting.

Dungeon Marathon is not a very hard game, but the inability to fight back against the enemies can make it a little frustrating at times especially as one touch is enough to lose any chance of a three-star rating. To make matters worse, the collision detection can feel a little wonky at times and it’s not uncommon to get cornered by enemies either. It’s very possible to run straight into enemies before even seeing them if you are not careful, which can be a nuisance.

The action in Dungeon Marathon is viewed from an isometric overhead perspective and the game favors retro-style sprites that are very reminiscent of the DOS era. While some players will find it very nostalgic, this art style won’t appeal to everyone. The dungeons are split into specific themes, such as mines, caves, and temples, but overall none of them stand out as particularly remarkable. All of them can be accessed from a hub area where players can also purchase the detox potion or use their cash on power-ups that can be used during the levels. The power-ups range from potions that can freeze enemies for a short time to shields that can deflect a single hit from an enemy, but each can only be used once before players have to rebuy them. In addition, characters can only equip a maximum of three different ones at a time.

Apart from pressing a button to activate some of the power-ups, Dungeon Marathon also has a dedicated “sprint” button. This provides the characters with a speed boost, complete with an animation of them being trailed by multiple silhouettes of themselves. Unfortunately, sprinting consumes health, which is a resource that already depletes at a constant rate while moving about. When the health bar is depleted characters will be unable to sprint and vulnerable to getting killed in a single hit. The only way to restore health is via the poison apples, so it is recommended to save the sprinting for emergencies.

The audio in Dungeon Marathon is passable, but none of the tunes are exactly memorable and the game does not feature any type of voice acting. The sound effects, especially the noises made by collecting the apples, do lend the game a very arcade-like feel but might be grating to some players. We found the controls to be responsive enough using either a keyboard or controller and apart from the collision detection feeling somewhat questionable at times had no trouble completing the game.

Although short Dungeon Marathon features individual achievements for each level, which is a good incentive for getting a three-star rating on all of them. The game can be played on “Easy,” but must be completed on “Normal” to get an achievement, which then unlocks the “Hard” mode. There is another achievement for beating the game on “Hard” but it would have been nice if this mode was accessible from the start instead of having to restart from scratch after completing the “Normal” mode. The increase in difficulty from “Normal” to “Hard” also feels quite minor, especially after getting a three-star rating on all the levels.

Overall, Dungeon Marathon is certainly a very novel idea and offers a unique take on what would otherwise have been a very ordinary action RPG. It’s a solo experience, though, so there’s no competing against friends or working together to clear the dungeons. Because the gameplay loop is so simple it can also become boring after a while, but the levels are short enough that they can be played in quick bursts. It’s not the best title made by Retro Army Limited, but still worth checking out, especially on sale.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1.6GHZ
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 64MB INTEGRATED
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 82 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Old 4:3 resolutions are not supported
  • OS: Windows Vista or later
  • Processor: 2.0GHZ
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 64MB INTEGRATED
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 82 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Old 4:3 resolutions are not supported

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