It can’t be fun being a miner – you know, the guys who dig things out from underground. And this is brought home to us in the latest from Antti Vaihia; a game called Tunnel of Doom. The question is, can an entertaining game be made out of a mining disaster, or is this a step too far in looking for gaming inspiration? It’s time to go underground…
It appears that there has been some kind of accident in a mine of the town of Goldcrest, and for whatever reason the authorities are unable to help. The Mayor has sealed the mine, and we, as a character named Angel – whose husband is trapped in the mine – decide to ignore this stupid decree, break in to the mine and go and look for him. It’s up to us to pop down, rescue our hubby and anyone else we happen to stumble across. Unbeknownst to us though, there are dark creatures abroad in the mine, and so the scene is set for an epic encounter.
Tunnel of Doom is a weird mish mash of tower defence and action roguelite game types. And yes, it is as odd as it sounds to be honest. Each run through the game is unique, with a different layout of the mine each time. As you explore the mine, the map that you find fills out, and in a nice touch, if you find a health heart, but don’t need it at that moment, it is marked on the map – because you can be damn sure you’ll need it later.
As you explore, you come across a variety of types of rooms. The first type of room just contains resources that need to be gathered. These can be obtained by smashing rocks or lanterns with your pickaxe, and there are also wooden items that can be smashed up. The bits and bobs that you gather can be used as ranged weapons when you have to have a fight, mostly as throwing rocks and bits of glass at foes damages them.
The next type of room requires you to defeat a certain number of enemies and/or protect some miners that are sitting around the place. This is where the tower defence elements come into play, as the way that the enemies will enter the room are highlighted with red arrows. You can set up barricades, either wood or glass, and also projectile weaponry. There are turrets that can fire wood, rock or glass, and they will only fire as long as you have the resources to fuel them.
Of course, while you can set all these defences up, the enemies fight back, not just against you but also the trapped miners. You see, not only will they try and bypass your defences and take you down, but they will also try and kill the trapped miners; something which is not just bad for them, but is bad for you as well. Let me explain: if a miner is killed, Angel suffers a “pain in her heart” and loses health. This is usually enough to kill you at the end of a fight, and causes Tunnel of Doom to reach a conclusion. This really sucks, as you can imagine, as does the fact that the defences don’t seem to do much more to the enemies than to tickle them. You’d think surrounding a miner with a broken glass barricade would stop the enemies getting to them, but not a bit of it.
The last type of room is a kind of shop with a friendly character who will sell you upgraded weapons, both firearms for personal use and also tower defence blueprints that will allow you the chance to place more defences as you go on.
This is the whole of the game then: wander around, break stuff to gather resources,then set up some defences and try to stay alive. The main issue I have with the gameplay is that the tower defence part of Tunnel of Doom doesn’t seem to work awfully well; something which is amplified when you discover the same issue for melee or ranged combat. The two parts combined together do result in a bit of fun, but to be brutally honest it isn’t terribly long lived.
The graphical style of Tunnel of Doom is most firmly set on the retro side of the spectrum, with nicely pixelated graphics that somehow manage to get across the emotions that are being felt. The rooms are basic rectangles,but the perspective is a bit strange, as the things that you need to smash look to be nailed to the floor, but you can still smash them with your pickaxe. Sound wise there’s not really much to report – it’s very much business as usual, firearms go boom and your pickaxe makes ‘noises’.
Now for a conclusion, as is demanded at this point in a review. There are some things to like about Tunnel of Doom, as the hybrid of the two game types actually works quite well. The fact that it is different every time you play is a bit of a draw, but to be honest, the tower defence part is the weakest link. The actual exploring is pretty good, but the defences that you can build are so weak and weedy that it feels like a waste of effort. Then again, the thought of being chased around by seven skeletons or whatever they are also fills me with dread.
Ultimately there are good ideas here, but Tunnel of Doom is hamstrung by feeling like a massive chore to play.
Tunnel of Doom is available from the Xbox Store