Since first seeing the release trailer, I have been pretty eager to try out Sleeping Giant’s arcade golf come dungeon crawler Par for the Dungeon. Since seeing the protagonist golf ball, Cal, roll across the green, whip out a bow and shoot someone with an arrow, I was hooked, but can it stand up to my self-built hype?
Meet your temporary best friend
Something that earns Sleeping Giant big points right off the bat is they allow you to pick between nine different styles for your dog. These range from a Shiba Inu-inspired pooch, your standard spotty dog, and of course the voidsent from the abyss with its dark fur and piercing, white, soulless eyes peeking into the very fibre of your being. I, of course, chose this one and named it Cerby.
Unfortunately, you don’t form too much of an attachment with your fluffy friend, as you are immediately beset by three of the game’s baddies; Bogeys. They promptly knock you on your behind before committing that most heinous of acts, dog-napping. You then set out on a mission to retrieve your canine companion, in what can accurately be described as John Wick for kids.
The trailer delivers early
You are very gradually shown the ropes in the starting levels, beginning by headbutting Bogeys to vanquish them and unlock the hole, before learning the advanced manoeuvres like bouncing off them to change direction. Par for the Dungeon starts like any standard mini-golf game with the biggest issue being overshooting the open hole before you reach your first item; that bow and arrow that haunted my dreams.
At this point, you start unlocking the full potential of Cal’s skills, and it is incredible fun. You will need to start carefully planning your moves to bounce around collecting coins to buy equipment, which will help you finish the course in the fewest turns to get the highest score. Why waste three turns going around the course when you can buy a bomb and cut through that wall?
You must be thinking five steps ahead
To add to the tactical choice, your gold will carry over through each round of three holes, so you will need to make sure you buy only what is needed to not ruin your future chances. It sounds simple on the surface, but when enemies start walking around, your timing becomes crucial. What is incredibly entertaining is figuring out when to combine all these.
Two walking enemies can be hit with perfect timing to turn a corner, or you can shoot a button to open the opposite gate, as the arrow ricochets off the wall and through it to vanquish a foe, all in one fell swoop. There are four worlds, and each of these contains different enemies and equipment to challenge you, keeping the game feeling fresh and incredibly engaging.
The gameplay and the premise are pretty simple, but the way that Sleeping Giant pulls it off is incredibly impressive. You don’t need giant open worlds or over-the-top action pieces to make a game you can get lost in for hours. Par for the Dungeon is a perfect example of how keeping things tight and concise can lead to a fantastically engrossing time.
An unexpected musical masterpiece
As you might expect for a game of this sort, the graphics aren’t outstanding. They are by no means bad, just a standard and safe cartoony look. You can’t fault it and it fits perfectly, but it doesn’t set the world on fire. What I wasn’t expecting however was how much I would love the music. Even the first time you load the game, you are hit by a delightfully charming folksy tune, a style that carries through the levels and just makes you feel happy.
By collecting crowns and stars, you will amass a variety of silly little outfits to dress Cal. Half Gallon will give you cowboy Cal, collecting all crowns will get you a rather familiar Hero’s Hat, or you can do what I did and unlock the first pirate-themed outfit, laugh hard at the name Parrrrr and stick with that. There are four special outfits, however, locked behind that most dreaded of features; microtransactions.
A bit too much of the dark side
To unlock all these outfits, you need to master every course to get all the crowns and stars, which means you will be using your retries quite fast. You can recharge these either by watching adverts quite often or paying for more. You can spend $0.99 for five, $3.99 for 40, and then 15 retries or unlimited for 30 minutes both cost $1.99, oddly. That is a little greedy, but it has nothing on the limited-time bundles. You have 24 hours to decide if you want to pay for a special outfit, otherwise, it is gone. It is a little aggressive as a marketing push.
It is a necessary evil in any mobile game, the developers need to make money and Par for the Dungeon only have retries that you could conceivably put a price on, but at that point why not just charge for the game, or have a fully unlimited retry option in the store. For a game that people will want to get max crowns on, and where you can miss out on top score by literal millimetres on some levels, it just hits as quite sly. Especially when levels as early as Course 7 will burn your retires as you try to master its very specific moves.