Dungeon Slots [Free] is the kind of game that I'm glad an independent developer made as a curious side project, rather than by a large company looking to monetize it. This is a game that is somewhat mindless and random – but unlike many other slot games, it owns this fact, and manages to be surprisingly player-friendly for a game where there's little control over what happens.

Battles take place in one-on-one battles against an enemy creature with set stats. Players pull the lever, and watch as 5 reels spin into place: if two or more adjacent icons match, a certain effect is played, with greater effects for bigger matches. Swords do physical damage, shields protect from damage, hearts collect health, and so on. It's possible to lock in reels and spin up to two additional times: but these cost coins, which can be purchased, or collected for free every 50 coins. The goal is to last as long as possible, killing as many enemies and getting a high score. That's the gist of it.

Dungeon Slots 3 Dungeon Slots is built around randomness – it is a slot machine game – but a strategic kind of randomness. By locking in certain reels, it's possible to help influence certain kinds of matches. The strategy is fairly basic – enemies resistant to magic means that it's probably not worth locking in those magic reels, for example. But there are tradeoffs: is it worth spending coins, the limited resource of the game, on trying to get a better result? Those coin reels might be worth collecting, but at the expense of doing or preventing damage? Those are the questions that constantly pop up. That, and "how do I kill this Bonnacon?"

That chaos adds excitement: there's the suspense of hoping that the reels land on just what is needed when that third and final spin is made. I feel like this game requires a certain taste, a tolerance for randomness, but because the game wears the fact that it is chaotic on its sleeve, it's far more tolerable. The enemies appear randomly, but their stats always react the same to the inputs. It's just getting the right inputs that's a challenge – and onethat the player only has so much control over. But it's a game that's up front about what it is – it doesn't exist as a random game and try to convince the player that it isn't that. It's just not deceptive.

Dungeon Slots feels like it's lacking one key thing: incentivized video ads. I think they would be absolutely perfect for the game. Getting 50 coins per play feels too small: I can burn through that in one life. Granted, I like to use multiple spins, but who doesn't? Paying money for more coins is certainly an option, but why not have an option to watch an ad and get a few more coins to keep playing? I feel like it would be beneficial to everyone – Robot Invader makes some extra money off of the game from ads, and possibly encourages people to spend money on IAP by getting them to play more. And players get to enjoy the game for longer than they would have.

Dungeon Slots 4But the thing is that this game is decidedly not pay to win, and it's why I was particularly interested in this game despite having a general wariness of free-to-play games where randomness is heavily applied. Run out of coins? Just have to wait four hours to get more, and continue the game from that exact spot. A more devious game wouldn't do that. This game isn't pay-to-win, it's pay-to-play-more. Perhaps $1.99 to play more is too much, and perhaps 4 hours is too long to wait to get to play more for free, but the idea behind it is sound and about as player-friendly as possible.

This game has become a frequent go-to whenever I have just a few minutes to kill and want to play something casually, because it's perfect for it. It's the kind of game to just sit back and mindlessly play. There's strategy, sure. But it's basic enough that I can play it while watching baseball, or on a short train ride, while procrastinating from work. Its nature works for it.

I wouldn't mind seeing the concept expanded upon. Maybe not this game itself – I find its simplicity appealing. But I'd love to see a game where the stats could be upgraded, different classes with different effects could play – like mages with greater magic damage? – maybe even with level-ups and the like. It'd be fun to see this expanded out even more, to be something further than just what it is now. But I'd like this to remain the fun, instant-gratification mobile game that it is.

To a large extent, I think that a game like Dungeon Slots is like a really good fast-food burger, like something from In-n-Out or Whataburger. Both are not trying to be anything fancy or mindblowing, just good in their class of what they're trying to be. It's why Soccer Physics [$1.99] got four stars from me despite having few complaints about it: it's a game that isn't doing too much, but does what it does really well. I do think there's more that can be done with the concept, but as a mindless pick up and play game, Dungeon Slots is quite fun.

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  • gmattergames

    Have to disagree, I found that the need to place so much focus on earning gold, made the game feel less like an rpg experience and more like a casino game; obviously geared to drive IAP. To me, in an rpg, treasure is earned from defeating foes, not from milking the weaker ones for gold instead of killing them outright; which is what this game devolves into. Furthermore, I found the enemy's uninspired. Why am I fighting a cow in a dungeon; or what is a giant bird doing in a underground labyrinth? Why is one of the most lethal enemies a mushroom? Had high hopes, but this missed the mark for me.

  • Danjuro

    I think the game the reviewer wishes for in his writing already exists : it is called Dungeon Plunder and is quite brilliant until the novelty wears off - which seems to be the curse of those slotting RPGs since they were born, as Battle Slots already suffered from this a few years ago on the PCs.

    • gmattergames

      Agree, Dungeon Plunderer, so far is a fine example,of how slot mechanics can drive an rpg exerience, but the limited production value made the game feel a bit amateur and unpolished; it's potential not fully fleshed out. Nonetheless, still play it today and had hoped this would replace it.

Dungeon Slots Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 3.5