There has been a trend lately of pairing traditional game genres with permanent death and randomized levels. Legend of Dungeon continues that trend. It's a beat-'em-up with a procedurally generated dungeon, permanent death, and lots of randomized loot to collect. It doesn't do anything drastically new with any one of those elements, but it combines them into a fun hybrid that is easy to pick up and has enough to discover to make it worth exploring.
The eponymous dungeon features 26 randomly generated floors full of monsters, loot, and gold. Even the music is randomized, ensuring that you won't get tired of hearing the same basic songs for hours on end. Your journey down begins at the inn, where you can randomize (but not customize) your appearance and, if you're wise, grab a lantern off a table. You'll need that lantern for dark rooms, but having it is also a way to show off the game's real-time lighting effects. Legend of Dungeon plays much like an arcade brawler when you're moving and fighting, but there is more exploration here than in any classic beat-'em-up. Rooms typically feature multiple doorways to explore while you're searching for the next staircase leading down, and it would be easy to get lost if the game didn't helpfully light up which door you just came from (a red light) and which doors you've been through before (purple lights).
For the first few floors, the gameplay is simple to a fault, with nothing to do but move around and whack enemies repeatedly until they die. The game has role-playing-game-like qualities, such as leveling up and collecting varied loot, but there are no classes to choose from and very little variety in how the weapons work (you have either a simple melee swing or a long-range projectile). There is also only one attack button, though you can charge an attack for increased damage. If you're looking for action that's more complex than an old Gauntlet arcade game, Legend of Dungeon will make a bad first impression.
But as you delve deeper and encounter more items and enemies, the game starts revealing more of its goofy charm. Some of this charm comes in the form of hats, which are the game's only armor type. Many hats are relatively standard, like a knight's helm or a miner's helmet (particularly useful because it has a light on it). But some headgear is much less serious, like koala ears, a leprechaun hat, or simply a cat that you stick on top of your head. There comes a moment when you're wearing a speed-increasing fish head and are firing lasers out of a cat when you realize that this game isn't as much about deep systems as it is about having some simple fun.
That fun and chaos can be increased when enjoyed by up to four players. Unfortunately, this can only be done locally because the game doesn't have an online mode, but controls for both the keyboard and gamepads are fully customizable. If you die in multiplayer, your friends can revive you by collecting the souls of defeated enemies, making progress a little easier as a group. The number of souls needed increases each time you die, but early on it's a good way to quickly get back into the action (though you will have lost your loot). Thankfully, the camera is smart enough to pull away from the action as players walk away from each other in a room, making sure nobody is offscreen (though things may get tough to see if you let the camera go back too far).
Unfortunately, Legend of Dungeon lacks some of the refinement seen in comparable randomized games. One major annoyance is the cumbersome inventory. Everything you pick up, including weapons, hats, and potions, is put onto the same vertical inventory bar. You can scroll through the inventory only one item at a time, and organizing it is next to impossible. Say you have more than 10 items, and you've switched to your lantern to navigate a dark room. A powerful enemy is approaching, so rather than whack it with your lantern, you want to equip a more powerful weapon. But as you frantically scroll through your items looking for it, you take damage. So you start to frantically scroll through to find a potion that you know will heal you, only by the time you finally land on it, it's too late. Because of this clunky system, you will want to drop weapons not due to weight or limited space, but because your inventory is a huge pain to manage otherwise.
As with other games of this type, the biggest draw is the sense of discovery. After hours of play, you still happen upon new items, new weapons, and new enemies that keep you guessing. Your first encounter with a vampire is memorable, and there is plenty of excitement in stumbling upon a powerful hat. Many rooms feature switches and hidden pressure plates that might lead to exciting new places, though it can be a pain if your progress is halted because the door you need to go through is hidden. Because the game doesn't hold your hand, a lot of trial and error accompanies every new element that is introduced. Even when that element hates you (such as an enemy that kills you almost immediately), it's hard to get too angry when you feel like you're learning and improving with each game. And you'll need to do a lot of improving. Legend of Dungeon is not an easy game, and reaching the treasure on the 26th floor is probably a feat that few players will achieve.
With its bare-bones animation and one-button combat, your enjoyment of Legend of Dungeon will depend on how much you appreciate its random chaos. If judged as either a beat-'em-up or a roguelike, the game would be found lacking. As a combination of the two genres, however, it offers just enough variety, and is just different enough from its inspirations, to give it that "just one more run" feel. The action isn't as tight or compelling as in other games of its ilk, but this legend can provide a lot of chaotic fun with friends. Just don't expect the dungeon to go too deep.