Taito's 1981 Space Dungeon
Space Dungeon is an intense, fast-paced game that plays very much like a cross between Venture, Robotron and the Atari 2600 title Haunted House. You control an odd-shaped, circular character through a series of rooms looking for treasures. Once treasures are collected you can seek out the "warp room" to move you to the next dungeon level. Guarding the treasures are numerous vaguely space-themed enemies that try to prevent you from collecting treasures -- or from doing just about anything for that matter. These enemies range from slow-moving pie shapes to Defender-like swarming aliens to treasure stealing thieves. This game's Robotron-like dual joystick controls lend itself very well to the type of action Space Dungeon routinely dishes out. And interestingly enough it debuted the Robotron-like controls and gameplay a year before Robotron did. An overhead radar showing what rooms have been explored and the position of key elements is a nice touch that makes you want to explore more of the levels.
Missing Ingredient
There are a couple ingredients missing from this otherwise appetizing recipe. The first is the awful graphics. Apparently Space Dungeon was made to run on the same hardware as Qix, which graphically wasn't too demanding. But to get across the somewhat conflicting theme of treasure filled dungeons inhabited by aliens and spaceships, better graphics would have helped.

The second thing is that the game tends to get insanely difficult early on. Watch out for those swarming Defender-like green aliens. They're unpredictable and ruthless. Also without dual joystick controls firing off a well-targeted angle shot or quickly ducking out a side door can sometimes be difficult when playing in MAME. Don't be surprised if your game is over before completing a single dungeon.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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