Sawbuck Gamer

Dubstep Dungeons

What’s In A Name?

Dubstep Dungeons has a deceptive title, but its beats are solid.

By Anthony John Agnello • July 26, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Dubstep Dungeons is not what you think. There is no bass drop, no blistering wash of dissonance blaring in the background. Josh Riley’s game doesn’t sound like a car commercial. Neither does it have prisoners of any kind. It has as much in common with dungeons, real or imagined, as it does with a loaf of pumpernickel. Instead, Dubstep Dungeons’ specialty is random games of geometric cat and mouse topped with pleasant ambient music.

In these so-called dungeons, high scores and evolving tunes are your prizes. Under your control is a circle that moves around shooting smaller circles at triangles and larger conical aggressors. Ten hits, and your circle is done for. Some enemies drop hearts to replenish your stock, but there’s an unreliable appearance of resources that makes for good tension, especially when you accidentally shoot a heart and it bounces away. A flashing exit is your ultimate destination, but since you want that high score, the fun lies in smoking out each sinister shape before moving on.

As for the evolving tunes, those come with the shapes. The longer you survive, the wider the variety of enemies. Each one adds a layer of beats and melody to the soundtrack. There’s a passing resemblance to mid-’00s dubstep artists, when the style meant something very different. Even if the songs hint at the sad melodies of musicians like Burial, it’s more similar to classic intelligent dance music like Aphex Twin. Slick as the mislabeled music is, it doesn’t feel deeply tied to what you’re doing, changing mostly with the sudden appearance of a new enemy or progression to a new screen. Riley’s off to a good start, but the tie between music and game is too tenuous here.

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10 Responses to “What’s In A Name?”

  1. SamPlays says:

    Is it even possible to dance to Aphex Twin without looking schizophrenic or possessed? “Intelligent dance music” is a deceptive title but the reference is solid.

    • I once cleared out an entire bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan by repeatedly playing, and dancing to, “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin. It was a spectacular evening.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

        John Mulaney has a similar story, except with “What’s New Pussycat,” which seems much more annoying.  

      • SamPlays says:

        I once annoyed the living shit out of some coworkers by insisting that we play John Zorn’s Kristallnacht in our office. I was 20 at the time and listening to “glass breaking” for 8 minutes was the hip thing to do. It was such a dick move.

      • Chum Joely says:

        That reminds me, as a counterpoint to my post just above: A friend once did the same at a house party (OK, “apartment party”) by putting this one on nice and loud at 2am:

        Ventolin (Salbutamol mix)

      • Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

        One of my friends insists on constantly playing Abba on jukeboxes because they’re songs are usually free or cheaper than other songs. He doesn’t even like Abba, he just does it to annoy people. I pick songs based off of how offensive they are. The more offensive the better. Lords of acid’s “Pussy” and Gwar’s “Fishfuck” are always good choices when available.

      • chrisk says:

        my friend tried to do something similar with venetian snares, but it started a fight:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjQJeMF7HM8

    • Chum Joely says:

      Acrid Avid Jam Shred

      Alberto Balsam

      Not sure if it’s fast enough to dance to, actually; but if you did dance to these, I bet you could retain an appearance of relative sanity.

  2. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    Not really related, but the word “dubstep” made me think of the following true story.

     I was reading the instruction manual that came with my headphones and under troubleshooting it actually reads:

    problem: my ears are ringing.
    solution: turn down the volume on your music player.

    I don’t know if its in the manual writing department or in the customer base, but somewhere along the supply line for this product there must be quite a group of idiots.

    • SamPlays says:

      I do research that involves relatively large populations (in organizations). You’d be amazed by who’s out there in the world. That said, legal liabilities are a pain in the ass.