Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
Some of the most engrossing games of chance—like fantasy football, craps, and Risk—are those that hand you the reins of enough variables to give you a sense of control. Picking Peyton Manning over Michael Vick or choosing Australia over South America for your base of operations has some inherent value, but winning often comes down to a roll of the dice (figuratively or literally).
The same can be said for Dungelot, a game that manages to obscure its slot machine-like sense of randomness with a number of strategic decisions that give you a slightly better chance at beating the house. The house in this case is a massive dungeon of seemingly limitless floors. It’s your job as one of the four heroes—a paladin, vampire, brewer, or an assassin—to survive as long as possible.
It’s a dungeon crawler without the crawling part, because player movement has been bypassed in favor of a 6-by-5 grid where you turn over blank tiles to find out what’s underneath. One tile contains an exit, and the other 29 remain a mystery. You could find a troll, a treasure chest, a trap, and a plethora of other surprises both positive and negative. Death is permanent, so you have to weigh risk and reward—whether or not to spend gold on your current adventure or cut your losses and use your accumulated cash to permanently upgrade your character.
But the biggest variable in Dungelot is the fact that you might have something more important to do. A conspicuous lack of auto-save means your 45-minute romp through Dungelot can be conquered by something more deadly than a zombie or a reanimated skeleton—having to take a phone call or check your email.