“The easy to navigate dungeon creator allows you to make exciting dungeons-levels within minutes. Choose how many levels, items and hidden objects you want and create your very own pixel art-style dungeons of varying themes and difficulties.”~ Firechick (Developers)
About the Game
Super Dungeon Maker is a wonderfully cozy, creative, and nostalgically fun 2D dungeon designing game created by Firechicks, a team of two talented developers with a passion for gameplay and creativity inspired by the Legend of Zelda. The producers of the game, Rokaplay, were kind enough to provide me with a review copy for Steam, which I’m incredibly grateful for, but they in no way discouraged my honest opinions about the game and so this review is 100% how I felt about it.
You start off awakening in the depths of a dungeon as the game’s hero, a young chicken named Fink. This a fun way to immediately immerse yourself in the kinds of dungeons and puzzles that can be created by the dungeon designer while also introducing you the wonderful charm of the game itself. There’s a great amount of detail put into the delightful pixel visuals, adorable sound effects (mostly made by Fink himself), ear-pleasing music, and true Zelda-style gameplay.
When you finally get to the end of dungeon to defeat your first boss and retrieve the Golden Egg (the ultimate goal of each dungeon) you are able to leave the dungeon and enter a Hub World in the form of a cute little village filled with other pixelated bird-folk like Fink. Moving from the dank and dim dungeon into an outside area that’s absolutely bursting with brightly colored trees and delightfully animated NPCs was a brilliant transition as I could almost feel the breath of fresh air from this quaint little village washing over me.
From this Hub World you can access a handful of other pre-built dungeons scattered around the village or visit a few different buildings that let you view or create your own dungeons, play or download community made dungeons, or view a collection of community dungeons you’ve already downloaded to revisit later.
It’s here I feel I need to pause briefly to step back and mention a few shortcomings. However (and this is a big however) I feel any of these shortcomings need to be seen as part of a larger and brighter picture which I hope to paint with the rest of this article. I feel context for these shortcomings are very important as it helps show that the few misgivings I have pale in comparison to the praise I want to give this game and its developers. Just keep in mind this is an indie game built by a team of two developers who set out to simply make a good dungeon design game filled with love and respect for it’s inspiration source (which I think they did a wonderful job at). But for transparency I did want to acknowledge the issues I came across and I wanted to get it out of the way early so I can spend the rest of the article talking about what I love. I don’t want to go into too much detail because many of these items have been acknowledged by the devs and they’ve stated they are working to patch some of them out already.
- Since we started discussing the The Hub World, I feel it’s important to point out a few shortcomings there. While the aesthetic of the Hub is impressive, boasting charming NPCs and their abodes, the interaction with these characters is limited to brief speech bubbles above their heads. Aside from finding a single hidden object (which I won’t spoil) there’s really nothing to do here other than take a visual tour of the adorable town and access the pre-built dungeons or game modes. It’s clear this area is intended for a lot more down the road and there’s a lot of potential for things that could be done here, but for now it just falls short.
- The tutorial dungeon could have a bit more in the way of teaching how to use the UI of the dungeon designer. My first few minutes in the tutorial felt a bit clunky but once I got the hang of it, the overall UI is very easy to use. It just wasn’t a super smooth transition to learn how to use and navigate through it the various settings and options. Some of the options have useful tool-tips but not all of them do. There’s a clickable question mark that pops up a window with a slightly deeper explanation into certain aspects of the designer, which are useful for the aspects it cover but it’s not comprehensive.
- There were a handful of bugs I came across here and there that either made my dungeon designing annoying or just confusing, especially during the text explanations during the tutorial dungeon. I do have to point out that the devs made it very easy to report bugs as they have ways to do so on their official website, discord, and even within Steam itself (as I didn’t play the Switch version I’m not sure how they handle bug reports there).
- While the framework of the dungeon designer is impressive, the amount of enemies and décor feels rather limited at this time, however the devs have said more will be coming.
- I think the biggest shortcoming, in my personal opinion, is the lack of any kind of coins or collectibles that can be placed in the dungeons or its various chests, pots, or cuttable grass. I understand that this would be a programming and logistical nightmare so while it’s my biggest gripe, it’s still small in comparison to my praise. It would be great for players to get ‘high scores’ in a dungeon by finding all the coins and would encourage players to break every pot and cut down every patch of grass to make sure they get every single point or coin available. The devs have acknowledged that this is one of the highest requested features in their Feature Map (see below) but there’s not a set path on when or if it will get implemented.
Back to the Highlights
The above shortcomings are, in my opinion, far overshadowed by a number of factors, namely the what the game sets out to do, how it accomplishes those goals, and the developers themselves. So let’s take a look at what they do!
The game itself is delightfully charming and scratches an itch I’ve had for a long time about wanting to create Zelda-like dungeons. The Nintendo Switch remake of Link’s Awakening implemented a taste of what an official designer could look like, but was Heavily limited by only placing existing dungeon rooms, as is, an not being able to tweak any individual elements. Combined with every room being the same shape and size, and only being able to connect rooms at pre-determined door placements made the whole things feel more like a slightly interactive puzzle than an actually ‘dungeon designer’.
Super Dungeon Maker on the other hand, lets you tweak every single little element about a dungeon, crafting a truly unique experience in every room of every dungeon. You have complete control over the dungeon and there’s a great since of creative joy in that. The game currently is comprised of two main parts; playing community made dungeons and designing your own dungeon. First, lets take a look at the Community Dungeons.
The first major part of Super Dungeon Maker is the ability to play and download other bespoke dungeons created by the community. In the Hub World, you can enter two different buildings to experience the multitude of custom made dungeons. The Eggspedia lets you view and play any community created dungeon. Here you can view multiple catagories like Top Dungeons or New Dungeons or even search for specific Dungeons. You can view the Dungeon, how many ‘hearts’ it has, play directly from here and give it a ‘heart’ yourself. You can also download the game so that you can access it at a later time without returning to to the Eggspeida. This is where the Storegge Room comes in as it allows you to view a collection community games that you’ve downloaded and return to over and over again. There’s an immense amount of creativity out there and it’s fun to play such a wide variety of other dungeons to get inspiration from or just spend countless hours exploring the imaginative designs of others.
The heart of the game is the Dungeon Designer itself. From the Hub World you can enter the Hen & Fam where you view and create your very own dungeons. You can name them, given them descriptions, and upload them to the community. The sheer joy of combining elements to make your own unique Zelda-like dungeons is unmatched. The dungeon designer lets you draw rooms of any shape or size and then fill them with any combination of decor, puzzle elements, enemies or treasures.
The dungeon designer itself is a fairly impressive and powerful tool that can be used to create some truly imaginative creations. In large part, the amount of positive feelings I have for this game (as well as my eagerness to overlook its shortcomings) is due to how well I think they implemented the dungeon designer. In the video below, you can find a small sampling of the types of things possible within the dungeon designer.
If you’re curious how I made that puzzle, you can check out my ‘How to Make Dungeons’ article below where I do a deep dive into building these types of puzzles in the dungeon designer. I felt the designer was so impressive that a brief overview in this article of it’s UI and features wouldn’t really suffice. I felt they deserved their own post for a comprehensive examination. I also know some people may want to explore this part of the game on their own and I don’t want to spoil anything for them here.
Super Dungeon Maker – How to Make Dungeons
Once you’ve decided to create your own dungeon, you’ll need to know how to navigate around the User Interface (UI). From inside the dungeon designer, you’ll be able to select different editing options. The designer is comprised of two made ‘modes’. First is the Paint mode where you control the floors and walls of the dungeon. Then there’s the Build mode itself where you place Doors, Puzzle Elements, Decor, Treasure, and Enemies.Keep reading
About the Developers
And who do we have to thank for all this incredible work? The developers of course! The development team consists of only two developers, making it a true indie game. It should come as no shock from the design of Super Dungeon Maker that they are huge Legend of Zelda fans, which makes their journey even closer to my heart as Zelda is my favorite video game series. If you’d like to get to know a little bit about them check out this wonderful intro video from their website.
Despite programming the game on such a small team, they’ve been very active with the community and open to feedback, reported bugs, and feature requests. They are very active in their Discord, do AMAs (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, and have posted a Feature Map ensuring that future updates and content are coming. I’ve seen some people online, even some reviews of the game, that have reviewed the game harshly due to the game feeling ‘unfinished’ especially due to the lack of a story mode. However, I feel they are judging this game unfairly and not considering that it’s an Indie Game developed by two people, who set out to make a dungeon designer (which is how they advertise the game), and the developers are committed to improving the game. I feel that if they set out to achieve something specific and they accomplish that well, which I believe they did, they should be given credit where credit is due.
Super Dungeon Teachers
Speaking of due credit, one of my favorite things about how Firechick is handling their game, is how they are making the game entirely free for academic purposes! I love any developers who value the importance of education and I do feel this game is a perfect entry for no-code programming for level and puzzle design. If you’re an educator and want to get it free for your students, snag their contact info from their main website!
We decided to make our dungeon editor 100% free for students to support upcoming talents and give something back to the industry that we love so dearly. The easy to use level creator has already been used in several universities across Europe and North America to teach students the ins and outs of level design.~ Firechick (Developers)
Dungeons Aren’t Just for Videogames
Speaking of educational purposes, one of the things I’m most excited for is how Super Dungeon Maker can be a great tool for aspiring TTRPG dungeon designers. I think the skills of designing levels filled with puzzles, traps, treasures, and enemies are fully transferable to creating those same engaging elements in a TTRPG dungeon. While Super Dungeon Maker has a fairly limited number of enemy types, when compared to the number of creatures in the Monster Manual, the other aspects are always hard to design and implement in a new TTRPG map, especially when working from scratch. When I first started designing my own 5e dungeons, most of my dungeons were filled with simple square or rectangular rooms focused mostly on combat. Figuring out how to make engaging maps with interactive puzzles, challenging traps, and various combinations of locked or unlocked doors, was all very overwhelming. Even now that I’ve made my fair share of fully custom TTRPG maps, I still find it difficult to know how to string these various elements together. I’ve now tested designing levels in Super Dungeon Maker, with TTRPG maps in mind and I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in streamlining the creation process as the framework helps you know how to combine these elements effectively. You can look forward to a deeper dive into how TTRPG creators can translate the elements inside Super Dungeon Maker over to their own TTRPG maps.
All in all, I’ve fallen in love with Super Dungeon Maker and can’t wait to continue to watch the community and the game itself grow. The game officially released their v1.0 on March 3rd, 2023 and to celebrate they are offering 20% off on both Steam and Nintendo Switch for a limited time!
I don’t have a numerical ranking system as I only review things that I’ve enjoyed myself. Instead, I simply try to give a detailed snap-shot as well as my recommendations for the audience who I feel would get the most enjoyment out of it.
So, I would say I Highly Recommend Super Dungeon Maker for anyone that’s a fan of 2D Zelda games, cozy games, creating dungeons, practicing level design, or simply just supporting two great indie game developers!
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