Dungeon Munchies was my last hoorah of 2021, meaning it was the last game I beat, and what a game it was. A 2D sidescrolling action platformer by Tawainese developers MaJAJa, Dungeon Munchies has you defeating enemies to collect ingredients to cook them into meals that provide you with new passive skills and attacks. I discovered it during Nintendo’s December Indie Showcase and was enamored by its charming pixel art. I thought I was in for a simple, lighthearted romp, but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case.
I thought Dungeon Munchies would be a slow game where I fought simple monsters and brought them back to my camp to cook fun meals, kind of like in Moonlighter how you explore dungeons to gather items to then sell at your shop. And I did do just that, but the game was anything but slow. What I thought would be lighthearted fun would evolve into a brutal fight against monsters and platforming obstacles.
The first thing I noticed while watching the trailer was that the game’s art direction is incredibly charming. The environments were detailed and created different atmospheres depending on the area I was in. And the backgrounds especially made me stop and take screenshots more than a few times. The forests felt sprawling and dense, whereas the ruined cities felt desolate and void of life. The excellent art direction makes the visual gags even funnier. There was a particular scene at the beginning of the game where two characters are having a conversation and one of them gets annoyed, so their face stretches off their body to get into the other character’s face. At a later point in the game, I was walking in a pasture of cows when I came across two of them performing . . . physical relations, which caught me super off guard but made me chuckles at the absurdity. The pixel art mixed with the weird visual gags made the game stand out right off the bat.
The soundtrack also seemed tailor-made for someone of my tastes, as it incorporated a Lo-fi hip-hop theme that was surprisingly an excellent contrast to the game’s darker elements and fast-paced combat. It compliments Dungeon Munchies’ tones of loneliness but also makes it so the game doesn’t feel downright miserable. If you’re a fan of Lo-fi like I am, then you’ll love Dungeon Munchies’ soundtrack.
Fighting Against The Game
Now to get into the game’s main aspect, platforming, and combat. Platforming in Dungeon Munchies is more than just jumping to a new area; it often requires precision jumping, rolling, and dodging to get through enemies and obstacles. Things like lasers, spikes, and boobytraps stood in my way as environmental problems, when in fact, the real issue was the controls. Some areas required minute movements that the game just wasn’t built for. Even after taking off a movement speed buff, I applied to my character, I was still dying because my character wasn’t moving the way I intended. If I tapped the right stick to move an inch, it was like the game interpreted that I wanted to run and I would die. It was one of those moments in gaming that genuinely felt like the game’s fault and not my lack of skill. It was simply impossible to get my character to move the way I wanted. There was even one boss fight where I had to jump from platform to platform and not touch the ground, like a game of “the floor is lava,” which caused me to put the game down for a few hours out of frustration towards the controls. It wasn’t constant frustration, but it left me red in the face a few times.
The controls didn’t ruin combat, thankfully, as it was more about mashing buttons than it was about precision placement. There were times where I had to be great at dodging at the perfect moment, but 80% of the time, I was smashing the attack and shield buttons. Customization is a big part of Dungeon Munchies, as you can outfit your character with weapons like swords, daggers, axes, shields, staffs, guns, bows, and arrows, etc. There are also a finite number of buffs you can obtain by gathering new recipes/ingredients and eating meals. Buffs can be anything from more health, faster movement speed, summoning minions to help fight, or even new weapon combos. There were way more recipes than I initially anticipated, and they significantly changed up combat. I got stuck on a difficult boss and looked up a guide to see what I could do differently. The player I watched had completely different buffs and weapons than I did, demonstrating how they tackled the boss fight. I changed my loadout, which switched around some of my combos and health pool, and after a few test runs against the boss, I became proficient with my new buffs and beat the boss. There is so much room for experimentation in Dungeon Munchies, making the experience refreshing anytime it begins to feel stale. However, this doesn’t make the game replayable, as everything is plot-focused, not focused on making new character builds like in Dark Souls.
Seizing The Means of Production
The plot was a lot more than I bargained for initially, as, like I said earlier, I thought it was going to be lighthearted and something thrown together for the sake of just having a story. What I got was something a lot deeper and heartfelt, with great humor mixed in. Dungeon Munchies throws you into. . . well, a Dungeon, as a reanimated zombie that is the henchmen for a charismatic yet bossy spirit named Simmer. Simmer tells you to explore and collect new recipes as cooking is a sacred art that has been outlawed. You soon learn that Simmer is in a battle of ideologies with someone named the “Lord of the Forest,” who thinks all vegetables and animals shouldn’t be killed or cooked. The plot then dives into self-autonomy, issues with becoming a martyr, philosophy on government, censorship, and existentialism.
The humor comes in by the cast of characters being made of mostly vegetables and fruits. There’s just something chuckle-worthy about seeing a peanut regret the idea of slaving their life away at work for a deity that they don’t know or understand. The heart of the plot comes from the spirits/other reanimated corpses, who, along the way, provide a lot of backstory into the apocalyptic world of Dungeon Munchies. Seeing what their relationships were like back in the day and how they changed after traumatic events made it feel like there were genuine relationships being played out before my eyes. The most important relationship was between Simmer and The Lord of the Forest, as they both shared a deep history and personal relationship. There were some truly heartfelt moments between the two of them, and watching their relationship develop even further really became the center of why I loved this game. It was nice to see such an on-the-cute surface game, get very real about how different views can affect not only your relationships but also your worldview afterward. I fell for the world of Dungeon Munchies much more than I anticipated, and it’s all thanks to the game’s heart and humor.
I was excited going into Dungeon Munchies, and I walked away impressed. The visual gags meshed well with the fantastic pixel art and attention to detailed backgrounds. This humor complimented the game’s more serious tones that dove into topics like autonomy and existentialism, which were made even funnier because the characters were talking corn or pineapples. The combat was more mashing buttons and trying to dodge projectiles, but it was fast-paced and fun in the end. The gameplay loop of defeating monsters, collecting their ingredients, then cooking into buffs to help you in future fights was addicting right off the bat. And the customization it brought to the table with said buffs and weapon variation made things exciting whenever they were starting to get stale. The only sour note was the controls and gimmicky platforming that was enough to frustrate me at points. But the heartfelt story and relationship between characters kept me around and made me enjoy the game until the very end. Dungeon Munchies made my end of the year genuinely great.