Popup Dungeon

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Popup Dungeon Game Poster Image
Customization lifts basic dungeon crawler to another level.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

"Another village, another pillage" is not exactly the ideal message to be sending to younger players, but this is a game that is about stealing (in some scenarios), and killing your enemies, even if it's done with tongue-in-cheek.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive character representations in Popup Dungeon. Emerge victorious from a battle, and there's loot to collect. Fail to conquer, and you get to try again. 

Ease of Play

If you've played a tactical turn-based combat game, the controls and gameplay are familiar. Customization is where the action is, and there aren't many guides to the creation process. 

Violence

When killed (by melee blows, ranged missiles, or magic), units spin and disappear in the puff of smoke.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are battlegrounds that resemble bars, but characters are there for combat and the environment isn't interactive. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Popup Dungeon is a downloadable tactical turn-based strategy combat game for Windows PCs. The gameplay is familiar to players who have experience with strategy games or Dungeons & Dragons and has a tutorial, but the customization doesn't have a gentle walkthrough, making this tougher for younger players. There are various difficulty settings for combat, so younger players may be able to use this game as an intro to the genre. There's also some mild violence using weapons or abilities, but enemies disappear when defeated.

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What's it about?

With more than 1,500 abilities, 420 items, and 200 fully voiced enemies, not to mention 36 playable characters, POPUP DUNGEON gives players the rudimentary tools to create a lot of content and variety in the missions and campaigns. The battle modes of the campaigns follow stock turn-based, strategic combat elements with a bit of an RPG (role-playing game) flair, but it's the deep customization that may have players coming back time and again. The overall game has a humor-filled vibe to it, and with different difficulty levels, players can further customize the game combat experience. 

Is it any good?

At first blush, this seems like a standard turn-based strategic dungeon crawler -- right up to the point where it starts throwing curve balls that have nothing to do with either dungeons or combat. The story of Popup Dungeon is all over the map, which dances through a variety of themes. And while the game gives an easy intro to the combat (which is familiar to most turn-based players), it drops the ball when it comes to the most dynamic and creative element: the customization. There's no tutorial, which is a shame because players can create virtually everything the game has to offer, from characters to skills to campaigns. This takes trial and error to come up with something that makes sense in a game context, and for the most part, everything a player needs to trek through different combat settings is already in place. Obviously, one strategy game is much like another, using action points that force players to plan out their attacks, but every game needs a hook to hold on to players. The customization is the hook here. You create and drop characters into the campaign or go the whole 10 yards and create your own adventure. A tutorial would have been helpful here. There is even a point when players get to roll a D&D-style die, but this is mostly a game adornment to give it an old-school feel (when you ask a character to join your group, a dice roll will determine their response). 

Visually, Popup Dungeon is appealing enough, giving the impression of a tabletop game, and while the sound elements aren't that strong, they are decent. Overall, the battle mechanics feel a bit simplified and standard, and while it relies on a point-and-click navigation system, it doesn't always respond to your commands. But if you overlook some of the technical hiccups and missing elements, the customization element of Popup Dungeon is where the game truly shines and can engage players for hours on end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about areas of real life where strategy is used. Is strategy part of sports, and if so, what sports rely on it the most? How can strategy benefit students when it comes to school work?

  • Are players drawn more by stories, or graphics, or a combination of both? Does combat play a role in their decisions, or is it more about the plot?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strategy

Themes & Topics

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