In a perfect revision of the 1990s, Legend of Dungeon would be the fabled arcade cabinet chained away in the cellar of an ancient electronics graveyard, trailing webs and swallowing not coins but splinters of your soul to keep its pixels churning.

RobotLovesKitty is onto something with this cunning little RPG beat-’em-up: we’re talking procedural generation, permadeath and more flaming novelty hats of power than you could rattle a copy of Team Fortress at. The presentation is voxel-perfect, serving 8-bit up with modern trimmings and arriving at a style that is both timeless and downbeat cavalier (in the way that earflaps and side cars are cavalier).

The best bit? You can take up to three persons of arguable affection with you on a dungeon run to snag the megatreasure reputed to be in the guts of level 26; having done some sightseeing up to and including but totally bloody well limited to level 7, I’m not betting on your chances.

Monsters grow in lethality with every staircase downward, though if you’re of the lucky persuasion you’ll pick up some nifty gear to deal with them; already there is a workable arsenal of swords, spellbooks and guns (aye, guns), and have I mentioned the novelty hats? The first time I donned the Reluctant Kitty Hat of Awesome my face emitted a high-velocity rainbow. And not in the game.

The current build of Legend of Dungeon is still delving early alpha, so the game obviously has a long journey ahead of it, but I’m excited to see how well it’s shaping up already; it really does capture the sense of an old-school arcade game spliced into a roguelike, and there are innumerable little touches that show the game off as a labour of love. (One such is the way in which your character changes gender and appearance when you enter a restroom in the tavern atop the dungeon; maximum bonus points.)

Ultimately, the co-op support is the sword in this magical stone. Roguelikes are by tradition lonely, terse affairs; with friends, Legend of Dungeon is a romp, a Laurel-and-Hardy bumble through the halls of the damned. The companionship and added ironpower come with some hilarious misunderstandings, thanks usually to the ability to push other players into the waiting arms of a monstrosity. Competitive bastards will turn the game into a hat-snatching free-for-all: everything, including experience points, is just waiting to be grabbed.

But even when a player kicks it they can be of use, sticking around as a ghostly skull that can shove enemies into a corner. Players can eventually be resurrected, too, if they collect enough special tokens dropped by fallen foes.

I do have concerns about Legend of Dungeon, but it totally wouldn’t be sporting of me to wield the +3 blackjack of judgement so early on in development. The game’s variety is limited, but really, that’s only to be expected at this stage; if RobotLovesKitty follow the venerable path of the roguelike developers who have gone before, they’ll end up wedging the entire catalog of the universe into their creation.

I will utter a twinge of trepidation over the combat, which feels a little too hit-and-miss at times. While this is mitigated by the awesomeness of co-op, an extra layer of complexity would be welcome here; that said, I’m confident the developers will work it all out just fine, and have you seen this mighty fine specimen of Cthulhu hat I have here?

Honestly, it does the heart-valves good to see a Kickstarter-sparked project come together like this. With an original target of US$5,000, Legend of Dungeon went on to hook up a respectable lootsack of US$32,999 in its campaign. No surprise really, because who wouldn’t want to get their sword into a four-player rumpus through the goblin pit? You know, it’s probably best not answer that.

Want to see Legend of Dungeon hat-butt its way onto Steam? Vote for it on Greenlight.

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