Review: Tangledeep (Nintendo Switch) – you’re going to die, like, a lot
Tangledeep doesn’t just grind you into dust, it chisels you into a better version of yourself.
Tangledeep is a turn-based fantasy roguelike where you’re going to die a lot. You’re going to die in fire. You’re going to die to giant mosquitoes. You’re going to die to spiders. You’re just going to die a lot, because that’s the kind of game it is.
The hope is that with each attempt to reach the surface from the depths of Tangledeep, you’ll learn something new.
Maybe this time you’ll learn about one of the game’s many character classes, deciphering some new way to use one of the myriad abilities you can learn. Maybe this time you’ll learn about cooking and how to turn ingredients into healing agents, stat buffs, elemental attacks, or numerous other useful items. Maybe this time you’ll learn how to fight that pesky monster that chewed you up and spit you out last time. Tangledeep doesn’t just grind you into dust, it chisels you into a better version of yourself, preparing you for the next time you embark on your journey.
Beyond that, not all is lost between attempts. There’s a banker where you can store items and money, either accepting defeat or banking a surplus on one run to muster hope for your next. For a gentler style, you can even choose not to play with permadeath rules. For the thrill seekers, you can completely turn off town progress, electing to make permadeath total and all-encompassing.
There’s a lot to love about this game. The first thing that struck me was that it’s beautiful. It’s styled like a SNES JRPG and looks like it would stand shoulder to shoulder with the Final Fantasies and Breath of Fires of the early 90s, right down to the font choices and the little pointing finger menu cursor. It’s a game that fully commits to the aesthetic, from the music to the faithfully recreated scan lines that you’d see if it was a game being played on a CRT television.
Tangledeep is also a game that provides you with a ton of possibilities. The game starts with 9 character classes unlocked, all of which have distinct visual and mechanical styles, and shows three more greyed out that can be unlocked later. You start by selecting 2 passive abilities from a list of 9, with more to be unlocked as you play.
Each class then has about 10 job skills you can purchase, including some active abilities and some passives, with more alluded to by an NPC who promises to train you in advanced arts later. When you add equipment, including armor, accessories, and an assortment of weapons, there is a lot to chew on here.
This is about where I hit my limits with Tangledeep, however, as it is viciously difficult and kept killing me right as I started to unlock interesting things. In one of my runs, I played a sword dancer, a melee character that focuses on parries, elemental attacks, and a few utility skills like lunges and roots. I had just unlocked a passive ability that gave me the ability to parry with any melee weapon, instead of just weapons that had parry listed on them, and strengthened the potency of my counterattacks.
Further, I had a weapon that healed me on critical hits, including critical counters. It was a satisfying build where I didn’t get obliterated the moment I tried to go toe to toe with anything powerful, but I ultimately got overwhelmed by lion-like beasts that could somehow create a perimeter of ice around me. A pair of these beasts, actually, working together to make me meet my end.
I realized in that moment that that’s the kind of person Tangledeep is for: If you have the patience to learn all of Tangledeep’s systems, to master its character classes, and to remember how to face everything you come across, you could find a lot of joy in this game.
For me, while I love a challenge, I just didn’t find that I could gather enough momentum fast enough to make meaningful headway towards the mythical surface. The abilities weren’t potent enough for me to really stand out and it constantly felt like I was a weak underdog who was barely scraping by. I play and love lots of games that don’t hesitate to demolish me when I make a mistake, but Tangledeep was just a bit too ruthless for my taste, with not enough tools at my disposal to ever feel like I could make the best of a bad scenario.
All that said, if you’re into difficult, turn-based roguelikes and you enjoy the SNES JRPG aesthetic, Tangledeep might scratch that itch for you. It’s an expansive game that could be just the challenge you’re looking for.
Tangledeep is available for the Nintendo Switch for $19.99.
Who’s it for? Roguelike enthusiasts who grew up on SNES fantasy RPGs and can handle an extremely difficult game
Jake reviewed Tangledeep for the Nintendo Switch with a review code provided by the developer. His favorite character class was the Sword Dancer, who survived longer than anyone else. He never made it to the surface.
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