This is a quality return to the kind of game you might have played in a coin-operated arcade when you were younger, if you were lucky enough to live near one - but with all the unnecessary elements which slow down gameplay lobotomized, then replaced with extra creativity and a good sense of whimsy. Basically what you get is a faux-retro art presentation of the gauntlet genre of game, or for those of you who never played games like Gauntlet or Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara - it's a coop beat 'em up for up to 4 people on the same screen in which you use randomly generated loot to plumb the depths of a randomly generated dungeon, in which you will very inevitably die (it's properly hard later on). The first part of the game might feel like it's over-easy, especially if you spend a lot of time on it (you can descend to the next "level" of the dungeon as soon as you find the door down, like most roguelikes), but as you descend, you will start dying to random traps triggered by nothing more or less than your own curiosity, turns taken wrongly, ill-timed leaps into lava, and unfortunate encounters with vampires and cyclops - just to name a few. Under the thin veneer of cutesy "8-bit" sprites and whimsical openGL-driven lighting effects, beyond the little visual jokes like the bathrooms you can use to change your character's appearance at the beginning of the game, this program is very definitely trying to kill you. Sometimes this feels unfair, but the game mitigates that by breaking with roguelike tradition and allowing you to be revived from death (with no loot) - IF you have a friend to revive you who is able to recompose you from the tatters of the souls of those he or she slays. More on this caveat later.
Gameplay mechanics are simple. There are no classes, no skill trees, no "combo" moves, and not even a whiff of crafting. Controls are so simple you can play this game on a super-nintendo controller without issue - which is a good thing in a game that's going for the arcade-ey beat 'em up style, in my opinion. All character progression lies in simple level gains, which boost stats for everyone in the same way, and the loot. Ah, the loot. This game features randomly generated weapons, bottles of unnamed substances (you gotta drink 'em to find out what they do; some will cause you to vomit a skittle-esque rainbow on the dungeon floor, which is almost as entertaining to watch as it is painful to your character), beer (gain XP, lose health and control of your character's better judgment for a while), apples (health), and hats like if you took Team Fortress and smashed it into 2.5 dimensions, then told a computer with a dictionary to name all the items uniquely. There are many hats. Many. I've had hats that looked like cats, which shot laser beams from their eyes. Hats that consisted of a wolf's face and which caused me to sprint and jump at great speed. There was a "hat" that was actually just a beehive, which released angry social insects upon any who dared get in the way of my sword swings. There were even some really weird hats that were just made out of cloth and stitching and gave me some basic stat boosts... And you can carry as many of them as you want, and switch out from one to the other whenever you need. Just keep in mind that your inventory system is its own game mechanic - it is a line that must be scrolled through to find what you want in it, so the more you keep, the longer it can take to get to what you need. Since there's no pausing and scrolling, even in single-player, this means that there have been times when I died because I couldn't switch out my gear fast enough to adapt to some new threat the dungeon had thrown at me. To me, that's elegant design. To others, that's the UI getting in the way of the gameplay. What you think about that may actually be a good judge of what you think of this game, because the 2.5-dimensional world you're in (you and all other sprites are flat, but you exist in a series of isometric rooms with depth to them) also makes finding the correct depth of your opponents something of a challenge. If you played old TMNT games, or other 2.5D games, then you know all it takes to get used to this is practice, but for some that's an off-putting requirement. I find it just complicated enough to add the necessary difficulty I'm looking for in a party game like this one.
By now you've obviously determined that this is a positive review. I like this game a lot, and I think it has great potential as a game to break out on the big screen at a party (it worked great on my SteamOS machine in my livingroom with a Playstation 2 - 2! controller attached) for a night of drunken shouting, button-mashing, and confused laughter (remember that time when you touched your sister's barbie doll in the naughty places and laughed to yourself? Yeah, like that). Unfortunately, that's also the reason I haven't played very much of this game - it's difficult to get people to sit down and play coop games in person anymore, which is the only way you can do coop for this title. Maybe it's the perception that the game looks "old" and therefore "difficult" or "arcane," or maybe it just looks too simple on the surface for people to be intrigued, but whatever the reason, you will have trouble getting people to play. That's worth mentioning, since the only way you can be resurrected is with a surviving friend to help you out - and the game's difficulty seems scaled around that mechanic. You can play solo, but it definitely makes survival to the end a much more random prospect - just like the point at which I decide I've said too much and end this review.