So first off, is an apology.
This one released just before Xmas and I was hoping to get it done as the last review of '21.
But it didn't work out that way.
Xmas and New Year got in the way and it kinda got pushed back a little till I got time to put pen to paper.
But the time has come so, without further ado, it's on to my first review of 2022!
Tunnel of Doom takes place in 1903, in the small mining town of Goldcrest. Digging deep into the earth, year after year, the villagers extract vast amounts of mineral wealth from under the nearby mountains. It's hard work but the village and its people prosper: Until calamity strikes...
Some unknown event causes violent quakes that shake the earth, causing tremors and cave-ins, which trap many of the miners underground.
After sending down a rescue squad, which never returns and is presumed to be also trapped, the Mayor reluctantly shuts down the mine until further notice.
But that isn't gonna work for our heroine.
Going by the name of Angel, she's the wife of one of the miners and she refuses to leave her beloved husband trapped under tons of rock.
Armed with only a pickaxe at first, she heads into the darkness on a quest to save the man she loves. Along the way, she'll discover the source of the tremors, and perhaps even save the world in the process.
The form this takes is one that's become extremely popular as of late. It's a procedurally generated roguelike, similar to "Enter the Gungeon" or "Binding of Issac".
Well at first glance at least...
That's because "Tunnel of Doom" is actually a hybrid of two genres. The aforementioned rogue-like mechanics are fused with a tower defense game, creating something a little different from the usual entries in either genre. As a fan of both game types, I was rather interested in seeing what this blend would play like, but does the result end up greater than the sum of its parts?
It's definitely an interesting concept, and the parts are there, however it doesn't quite click together.
First off, and something that works well, is the actual room layout. As expected from a roguelike the map is randomly generated and different each time. It makes each new room a surprise; you wonder what resources or interesting items you'll find each time. You'll begin to risk entering every room you can on the chance of getting something good.
Exploration is a gamble though.
If you're lucky the room will be empty of enemies and you can begin to collect resources without any troubles. Using your trusty pickaxe you can destroy wooden objects like tables, chairs, barricades, wooden bridges, and so forth. You can find gold. Or you can chip away at rocks. Or glass objects. Each of these items will provide resources that have a few different functions.
Firstly they can be used as weapons. Wood can make stakes that stab forward quickly but are weak damage dealers. Stones can be thrown, deal larger damage, and will pass through multiple enemies. They don't have much range though. Glass on the other hand doesn't do much damage, but can be thrown far and fast.
However you might not want to use them all for weapons, and that's because resources have a much more useful function.
If you get unlucky upon entering a room, you'll find that enemies are going to attack. Unlike a normal roguelike though, the enemies aren't already in the room waiting. Instead, you are given as much time as you'd like to set up before they'll attack.
Yip that's correct, this is where the tower defense part of the game comes in. The second you step into a "battle room", the game will let you enter build mode. You can enter and exit this mode as much as you like, you'll be told where enemies will enter from, and both the number of them and their type too.
Before starting the battle you can collect any resources in the room, move things around to block paths, or, as you'd expect from a tower defense game, place your own constructs.
There are a variety of barricades you can place, each working differently and requiring different resources. Wood and stone barricades require their respective materials and can take differing damage before they're destroyed. Glass can be used as traps to damage any opponent that walks over it.
However, there's also a third reason to collect and monitor resources. Not only are they weapons for you, AND used to make barricades and traps, but they're also used as ammo for turrets.
Spending gold in stores allows you to buy blueprints to build these (although you start with one too) and the more blueprints you have, the more you can build. Each fire different ammo and work differently too.
For instance, stake launchers use wooden bolts and can aim in a wide arc. Stone launchers fire in a straight line but the stones they fling go through multiple enemies. Glass launchers cause bleeding damage but are fragile. Magma launchers need to be placed on lava. Water cannons on water and so on. Each type has a required resource or needed location to use so placement is very important. Most of the time you'll simply be defending yourself but other times miners must be protected, and you'll be given a bonus for each that survives the battle. However, each barricade that's destroyed means lost resources so you need to think of where to put them or you'll run out of building supplies quickly. Like usual in a tower defense game, you'll try to defend vulnerable positions and create corridors to force enemies to go where you want.
Once you've placed all your barricades, traps, and weapons where you need them to be, it's time to start the battle. Enemies will rush in from the marked entrances and you have to kill them all to proceed. They'll attack you, they'll attack survivors, they'll attack barricades and they'll attack launchers. You can use your pickaxe, weapons made from resources, and guns you've found to attack the different enemy types. You have a dodge roll that makes you invincible to avoid damage and you'll use these to take down the enemies, while your traps and turrets do damage, with victory coming when every opponent is dead.
You then move into the next room and repeat the cycle.
I mean there are other little things to discover. Collected gold can be spent at shops to buy amulets that provide boosts or unique modifiers, you can buy blueprints allowing you to replace lost turrets or buy new ones. When harvesting resources you might discover hidden areas. You can find keys to open locked chests.
Basically, you’ll gather resources, set up your towers traps and defenses, fight the enemies, go to the next room, then repeat till you find the exit.
Which should be very fun...
But like I said earlier, it doesn't quite click.
The tower defense part should work in principle however it just feels out of balance. Usually in this genre enemies will take the paths of least resistance and you can make them follow a path you know beforehand. Here though they seem to all go in random directions and will take paths that don't seem logical or effective. They'll break through multiple barricades and walk the long way round rather than take the shorter path. Barricades are weaker than they should be, getting destroyed quickly and towers survive only a few hits before they are ruined too. And if the towers get destroyed you need another blueprint to build them again. It makes most towers useless as they fire too slow and get overwhelmed by the vast amount of enemies that move quickly. Many times it became simpler to just forgo the tower defense part completely and just rely on the combat alone.
But it has problems too.
The most obvious is that this ISN'T a twin-stick shooter. Instead, it plays like an old-school SNES game: with attacks only happening the way you're facing. It makes it very difficult to line up attacks and avoid damage, especially as enemies are so very quick and your attacks (the pickaxe in particular) are so very slow. It would have controlled much better with a twin-stick scheme. It's manageable but when you can have 20-30 fast-moving opponents running around it can be annoying to get hits. Being able to slash one direction while moving in another would have worked so much better and the right stick isn't assigned to anything so could have been used.
In the end "Tunnel of Doom" has a very promising premise but gets let down in its execution. Gathering resources, exploring the map, and finding weapons are fun. The combat could be too if tweaked a little. The weak point is really the tower defense part. The enemies going in random directions, not taking predictable paths, and being able to chew through defense quickly make it more of a nuisance than you'd usually see in a TD game. You can also build defenses in a way that's more of a hindrance to you, blocking you from moving, than to the enemies you're fighting. To me, it felt like a SNES game, which some people might like, but compared to other rogue-likes it just comes away lacking. Neither its combat nor its tower defense comes close to the best of either genre and while there is some fun to be had, it's mid-tier at most.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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