In the field of zombie cooking platform comedy simulators, there’s never been a game quite like Dungeon Munchies. That is of course because the field of zombie cooking platform comedy simulators is one where Dungeon Munchies represents fully 100 per cent of the category. Nonetheless, here we go. We have one now.
A surprise indie drop for the Nintendo Switch recently – though it’s been in Steam Early Access for some years now – it casts you as a zombie slave of maybe-maybe-not-evil necromancer called Simmer.
Simmer’s named as such because of the cooking element of the game, and she’s keen on teaching the collapsed world of the game how to cook all over again, using whatever ingredients are to hand. The problem is that the world’s collapsed and it’s full of mutated potatoes, killer wasps, electric snails and worse.
What that means is that the only ingredients you can get your hands on are those self-same killer beasties. Dungeon Munchies is mostly an action platformer with light cooking elements, although the cooking isn’t quite as key as you might think.
As you play through each level, you’ll face off against new enemies that drop parts of their bodies once you kill them. Combine these with the recipe books that you pick up in a regular manner and you can produce new recipes, all of which is just crafting 101 at this stage in gaming, right? New enemy parts and recipes unlock different buffs and weapons with a steady progress tree to work your way along as the game’s difficulty ramps up.
The difference here is that you might think around a cooking/crafting hybrid in, for example, the way that The Legend Of Zelda:Breath Of The Wild does it, with a need to constantly gather ingredients so you’ve always got bonuses at hand. That’s not what Dungeon Munchies does.
Instead, it’s more like an unlock tech tree, because once you’ve cooked an item once, it’s always available to you as a choice. You’re also quite likely to get most items needed for each recipe as you go through the game, so you don’t typically have to revisit too many levels to unlock the game’s recipe choices, although there are some nicely hidden secrets for those who like to explore every nook and cranny.
The customisation choices are limited by the seven items you can fit in your zombie stomach. This does give a degree of customisation choice. You can go all out on close combat sharp weapon damage and buffs, or long-range weapons, or damage reduction through shields and buffs. There are no limitations on mixing and matching any items, but you’ll typically want to tackle most levels and bosses with your best and newest weapons in most cases.
Comedy is always a subjective matter, but the script for Dungeon Munchies mostly sticks the landing as long as you’re fine with a little gross-out humour along the way. There’s a decent narrative that unfolds as you play through as well, discovering more about Simmer, her existing undead cohort and the game’s primary enemies.
The flexibility in combat is a definite plus point for Dungeon Munchies, because it’s truly fun to find a good combo of weapons to take on the game’s bizarre enemies with. If one approach doesn’t work, it’s easy enough to empty your stomach and try a different one.
The one caveat here is that Dungeon Munchies started life as a PC game with mouse controls in mind, and it shows, especially for ranged weapons and shields. You can angle your ranged weapons and shields with the left stick, but it’s an imprecise business, especially in the middle of more hectic combat scenes. I can totally see how that would be much more slick using a mouse at all times.
The other area where Dungeon Munchies could use some tightening is in the platform jumping controls. I guess zombies probably shouldn’t be able to jump around like Mario, what with the rotting and all… actually, they probably shouldn’t be able to jump at all, strictly speaking.
However, Dungeon Munchies uses a precision platform system that provides challenge, but only because the floaty controls aren’t really all that precise. You’re slide down a wall into a damaging spikes, or fall into a few pits along the way not due to lack of skill, but due to controls that don’t always respond the way you’d like them to. It very much feels like some tweaking could make Dungeon Munchies a lot more fun, and less frustrating.
The oddity here is that while it’s a “full” Switch release, it’s still listed as an Early Access title on Steam. The three-person team putting Dungeon Munchies together could still tighten up that platforming aspect, and I really hope they do. Dungeon Munchies won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s precisely the kind of small indie gaming idea that would never get large traction with a bigger publisher.