I've lost more than a few weekends to offerings from Armor Games, and Soda Dungeon [Free] certainly didn't break that pattern. While it assuredly leans on the lighter side of the RPG scale, its combination of a compelling upgrade system and quick, yet not entirely brainless, battles make for a pretty good way to kill a few minutes or a few hours as needed. I'm also pleasantly surprised by its generosity. There are no catches in the game that you can't buy your way out of with in-game currency. I'm not sure what the business plan is here, but I'm not a business reviewer, am I?

The premise of Soda Dungeon has you playing a would-be adventurer who, in spite of their motivation, lacks the necessary skills to survive dungeon crawling. Luckily, the local tavern has at least a few fools who can be duped into running in and gathering treasure for you. All it takes is a little liquid courage. And sugar. Lots of sugar. After hiring your party, you'll control them as they make their way through the 100 floors of the dungeon. In the likely event they can't hack it and make a break for the nearest exit, you'll get to keep the loot they drop. You can use gold to buy all kinds of things, and use equipment to beef up your next party. Somehow, you'll always get that equipment back when a party runs away, so one way or another, you're almost always moving forward.

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There's just one problem. The local soda tavern is small and shoddy, and as a result only attracts the town soda junkies. You'll need to invest in sprucing up the tavern, and with every stool and table added, more customers will come. It takes more than that to pull in different types of heroes, however. Every job class has a favorite soda type, so you'll have to spend the money to put a nice variety on the menu. You'll need a good reputation, too, built by improving the many features of the tavern. You'll soon unlock a shop where equipment can be bought and sold, a wizard who can teleport you to previously reached heights, and even a banker who will invest your earnings while you're not playing, giving you some free cash whenever you decide to play again. Everything you can buy will help your next party in some way, improving their stats, abilities, and survivability. You'll soon have a group strong enough to topple the boss of the 100th floor. Suffice it to say, the game doesn't end at that point, with many more battles and plenty of neat perks awaiting you.

When you're starting off and having to form your parties from the cheapest heroes, the battles are pretty much brainless. The first few classes can't do much more than hit things or use an item, which means you'll mostly be tapping your way through. The only decisions you'll have to make are concerning which enemies you'd like to strike with which character. There's a little bit to consider there, like hitting enemies in the back where possible, or making sure a weak character finishes off enemies with little remaining HP, but the game can more or less operate on auto-pilot at this stage. And indeed, it can, if you want it to. Once you open up some classes with special skills or magic, things get a little more interesting. You'll have to consider when to use your precious magic points, whether to heal or fight, and so on. The gear starts to involve more consideration, as well, as you'll come across pieces that give you a benefit in some way while penalizing you in another. Still, even at its most difficult, victory is less a matter of careful tactical choices and more a function of your stats and gear. If you want to play Soda Dungeon mindlessly, it certainly won't object with much fervor.

The other thing it won't mind is if you choose to pay some real money to move ahead quickly. Almost anything you can buy in the game with in-game currency can also be purchased with real money, to the tune of $0.99 each. That's not so rare for a free-to-play game, though. What is rare is that the reverse is true. Anything you can buy with real money can also be bought with in-game currency, and that includes the ability to remove the ads that periodically appear. It's not even a particularly wild amount of in-game currency, either, once you get rolling. Even after you've removed ads, you can still choose to watch an ad to get some extra gold if you'd like, however. The game's economy balance isn't particularly out of whack, either. On the upper end, a VIP menu opens up reasonably early on that gives you a lot of pie-in-the-sky things to spend your money on over the long haul. Most of the game's progression is quite smooth, apart from the beginning where you might find yourself struggling on a set of floors while you get a decent team together. Even then, you're getting new gear at a fairly healthy pace, so it doesn't feel like you're spinning your wheels.

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It helps that you can see that new gear on your party members as you equip it. Granted, Soda Dungeon goes for the well-worn pixel art style that a lot of games use, but it looks good for what it is and it's at least consistent. The same goes for the music, which opts for a matching chiptune soundtrack. A couple of the pieces are pretty catchy, and none of it is annoying. The sound effects are probably a little more sparse than they need to be, though. There's one particular effect used for lightning cracks and a few other things that comes up a little too frequently. As for other bells and whistles, the game includes Game Center support for leaderboards and achievements, and some of the VIP options give you visual customization choices for your heroes.

Like other games of this type, once you've exhausted Soda Dungeon, you probably won't be inclined to come back to it anytime soon. The road to said exhaustion is packed with a lot of enjoyment, however, and it's also longer than you might expect. With the game's monetization model being what it is, the only real question is whether or not it's worth your time. While the process of getting to the ending can get a bit repetitive after a while, I'd still give Soda Dungeon a pretty high recommendation. It manages to keep its light soda pop flavor while offering just enough bite to make you want to savor the taste. Give it a try, and you'll find it can be just as hard to stop as real soda can be. Hey, at least this kind is calorie-free and relatively low in sugar.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Stabaath

    Great job Shaun! I am currently enjoying this game and Dash Quest.

    • Alex Bittencourt

      Which do you prefer?

      • speedyph

        I just downloaded too I missed this one I was playing DUST πŸ‘»πŸ’―

  • https://www.facebook.com/rossmanbrothersgames RossmanBrosGames

    "Anything you can buy with real money can also be bought with in-game currency, and that includes the ability to remove the ads that periodically appear." That's pretty cool. I'll give this game a shot, sounds fun.

    • LarryWP

      Even when you pay to remove ads, you still get the option to watch an ad for in game money. Usually that irritates me, but the in game money is so much, and the ad is not a video but a picture advertising a game, it's worth it. I actually wish the offer happened more often. Great game! Just one more turn for sure. πŸ˜‰

      • https://www.facebook.com/rossmanbrothersgames RossmanBrosGames

        Cool! I'm not a F2P fan, and think I will always prefer paid games, but some games lately have been doing it in a way that doesn't bother me

      • LarryWP

        I too prefer paid games, but there are some good free games that do it right. The big companies seem to screw it up the most. Disney, EA, ....

      • LarryWP

        Epic Pirates Story is somewhat like this game, just one more turn type. It's free and is the same as the paid version for .99 cents. No ads, no IAP. It took about a half hour to understand how it plays but I'm glad I stayed. It's a blast! The paid version is just to help the devs, but is exactly the same as free.

      • MagIor

        Why would that irritate you? It's a free product, and the developer asking like that in any game is saying "you scratch my back. I'll scratch yours"

        -PsuedoMagIor

      • Modjular

        Woah, what's a pseudo-Maglor? Sounds like tier -two evolution.

      • LarryWP

        It irritates me when I pay to remove ads and they are still popping up. That's what I meant, and I thought I explained it but I must not have. Where the heck is the cat?! I miss it!

  • dingdongfootball

    I wish this worked on my phone 😭

  • Poo

    Uhh yeah it opens and freezes for me. Mini 2.

  • Talaen

    This is an outstanding example of F2P, in a way that made me want to give ,only to the developer instead of being frustrated at the inability to play the game due to timers or comparable.

    • Talaen

      Give money that is πŸ™‚

    • Modjular

      In my opinion, we need those bad ftp's to put the good ones in perpective.

  • Nycteris

    Great game! I also love the soundtrack.

  • Schpank

    Broke ass game doesn't work on 9.0.2 and the devs don't seem to know.

    • Dankrio

      I am on this version and it works on my iphone 5c.

      • Schpank

        Could be a hardware issue. I'm not alone, there are others in the TA forums and in App Store reviews who can't play the game. Haven't heard a peep from the dev.

      • Dooshe Nozzle

        AfroNinja posts quite regularly on /r/SodaDungeon subreddit. Try posting your problems there.

  • nicoper

    This game is great! I have poured a bunch of hours into it and still like it quite a lot.
    I haven't actually seen a single ad though, it just said "loading ad", but didn't actually load anything.

  • MasonHurst

    After lvl 100... Which comes pretty fast... It's over. Unless you like doing pretty much the exact thing over and over. And let's be honest...you actually do very little in this likable time waster.

    • Dooshe Nozzle

      There are different bosses every 100 levels, up through 1000. You technically haven't finished the game until you beat that L1000 boss.

  • Degney

    Update the game for iOS 9.2 ignorant developers there's loads of people complaining can you not read or just choose to be ignorant pricks!

    • RiptoR

      Don't update to an iOS beta if you expect that everything will continue working, ignorant user. There are loads of people who don't use pre-release iOS versions and they are not complaining, so it isn't (and shouldn't be) a priority for developers to look into problems on iOS versions that are still in active development and can introduce other app-breaking changes with each update.

    • Dankrio

      Please, show some respect.

    • borb86

      Considering the fact that every operating system beta comes with a warning that says "Don't expect all of your stuff to work" (paraphrasing), I find it funny that you're the one calling the developers ignorant.

  • Zee

    Amazing game ! spent around 30+ hours on the game already and I don't even really play iOS games..

Soda Dungeon Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4.5