Congratulations! You're the one billionth prisoner of a weird dungeon filled with traps and monsters, and the only way to escape is to descend through the prison levels—hundreds of them—one by one. That's the premise of Plunge (opens in new tab), a stylish turn-based strategy rougelite with some truly fantastic art and animation. I've been playing it for the past couple days and I'm completely hooked.
In Plunge, each level of the dungeon contains a key that opens the lock to the next level, so your goal is simple: collect the key and jump through the exit to reach the level below. Naturally, it's not always that easy as there are traps and enemies (and often both) that form a turn-based puzzle—how can I grab the key and escape without getting killed?
Movement is the interesting part. On each turn you can move in any of four different directions (or just stay still) using the arrow keys or mouse, but as you speed in a direction you'll slide until you hit something: the edge of the level, an obstruction, a trap, or an enemy. You're like a chess rook on ice, zipping speeding in a straight line and unable to stop until you've moved as far as you possibly can. Enemies, meanwhile, move like chess kings: one square at a time but in any direction they want. And they're coming for you.
One of the things I love about Plunge is how it clearly communicates your situation. If you're low on health there's not only a health bar to tell you, but your character will begin to sweat. You can clearly see an enemy's health level, too, and if you're in their direct line of fire from melee attacks that's clearly indicated by a hovering pink exclamation point over your head, telling you you'll be hit if you don't move or kill the enemy on your next turn. There are also enemies with ranged attacks, and when you're threatened by them it highlights the row of blocks that their spears could conceivably hit.
A fun wrinkle is that if an enemy walks over the key you're trying to collect, they'll actually pick it up themselves, meaning that if you want to avoid combat you'll need to quickly get the key before they do. Enemies also sometimes drop loot when they're defeated: health-replenishing meat hunks, armor shards, or mysterious unlabled potions (which can be harmful or beneficial, so you'll need to drink them to find out), though again, other enemies crossing over these dropped items will pick them up and carry them if you don't get there first. You can always see what an enemy is carrying by the icons over their heads, so you can gauge whether or not fighting them is worth it.
And I just love the artwork, animation, and sound in Plunge. Each attack has an meaty impact, and even landing on a new level results in a delightful ripple of the stone blocks and little poofs of dust.
With some clever maneuvering you can trick enemies into walking over traps as you trigger them with floor buttons, or line them up so they take damage from each others' attacks, or slip around them and flee the level without even fighting at all. Sometimes you'll be able to speed through a bunch of levels in a row with just a few seconds of sliding around, other times you'll find yourself surrounded by prison guards and you'll have to bash and smash your way out.
Occasionally you'll drop into a friendly vendor level, where you can choose between cards which grant abilities that are typically all so good it's hard to pick just one. I've had a card that stuns enemies for a couple of turns the moment I crash-land in a new level, one that automatically delivers a lethal attack on the final enemy of a level regardless of their health, and even one that rewards me with extra armor for every three enemies I don't kill. The cards are great because they're simple to understand and yet can completely change your strategy.
When you die, you start over from the top and the levels are shuffled. If you progress far enough you can also unlock new cartoony characters with different attributes: Billie has +4 max health, Billy has less health but does more attack damage, and Bellow gains armor every few levels. There are other characters I haven't unlocked yet, too, and I'm curious to see what their skills are.
Plunge is great for quick gaming sessions—like I said, sometimes you can zip through a handful of levels in a matter of seconds, and even descending a few dozen levels doesn't take all that long. It's challenging, too—those few dozen levels are as far as I've gotten. There are, apparently, boss fights deeper down than I've been, and I can't wait to see what they're like. Plunge, by developer Spooky Buns, can be found on Steam (opens in new tab) and Itch.io (opens in new tab). You can also visit Plunge's official site here (opens in new tab).