The Bottom Line: Extremely charming visual stylings aren’t enough to offset this roguelite’s repetitious number-clicking gameplay.
You’ve slain dragons in dungeons. You’ve killed the past in Gungeons. Now, brave warrior, the most dreaded of all challenges has come calling, and you face a destiny-altering dilemma: Do you enter the Numgeon or leave well enough alone?
Numgeon does a lot of things right. It has snazzy Downwell-inspired visuals, complete with swappable color palettes. Its soundtrack sets the tone perfectly. The central conceit of clicking numbers to kill monsters sounds compelling on paper, and the RPG trappings made me feel right at home. Unfortunately, Numgeon is no Gungeon, and after 90 minutes with it I was ready to crawl my way out and never venture in again.
Let’s back up and discuss the first steps into the depths. Numgeon wastes no time making a positive first impression. The default graphics are monochrome with a healthy splash of red, but if red isn’t your jam you’re welcome to choose a different color. You unlock more color options as you play.
Soon you’ll select your character and be tossed into the tutorial, in which you’ll learn how to fight. Combat in Numgeon is handled by a 4×4 grid inset with the numbers 1 through 16. The positions of the numbers are jumbled, and your task is to click them in ascending order to inflict pain upon your foes. You can also click the right mouse button to cast magic, and use potions by clicking an icon at the top of the screen. Master these skills and you’re free to go on your merry way.
Make no mistake, this journey is merry! Your knight prances from left to right across the screen, joyfully conveying your progress. When he encounters a monster, the number grid appears on the bottom half of the screen and furious clicking ensues. You’ll also stumble upon treasure chests, which can be opened with keys or by successfully completing a simple lock-picking minigame, and a merchant, who sells potions and trinkets in exchange for coins.
Sounds fine so far, right? The issue here is that “so far” is all you’re going to get, because if you’ve played Numgeon for 5 minutes you’ve seen all the gameplay it has to offer.
In a Dungeon of Numbers, RNGesus is King
Enemies in Numgeon strike hard and fast. There’s no way to block their attacks, and if you’re like me you will probably die quickly on your first run. But if you can reach the exit of an area, the game offers a choice of upgrades. Some of these perks are useless; others single-handedly win the game for you. In my third run, I chose a medkit that healed my knight after each battle. Band-Aids in hand, my gleeful knight skipped through the dungeon and right up to the final boss, who was no match for my number-clicking skills.
All told it took me less than 90 minutes to beat the game. While Numgeon does throw a couple of curveballs at you – some encounters feature 6×6 grids, and certain enemies lock numbers temporarily, preventing you from clicking them – largely you’ll find yourself click click clicking your way through extremely samey battles again and again. After my winning run I fired up a game with another character, but the gameplay was essentially the same. There is a time-attack mode, as well as an expert mode that removes magic and healing bonfires, but neither of these changes were enticing enough to keep me around.
This is a shame, because Numgeon’s visual design is very charming, and the clever central idea has untapped potential. Ultimately, however, the game simply isn’t fleshed out enough to provide a satisfying experience. What if the numbers swapped positions mid-battle? Or what if the number boxes flew around the screen? What if the numbers were non-contiguous, with varied intervals between numbers, so that the player isn’t left to hunt for 1 through 16 every time? What if certain monsters forced you to count backwards? And, heaven forbid, backwards non-contiguously? What if there were math problems to do? Square roots? Fractions! What if Ms. Jensen hadn’t given me an F in algebra? TRIGONOMETRIC FUNCTIONS! IMAGINARY NUMBe
Needless to say, my time in the Numgeon was short and I don’t see myself returning. But I did appreciate the presentation and there is a clear glimmer of potential here. So will I take another look at developer FobTi’s game catalog in the future? You can bet your last NES controller I will.