Oh, but I despise the owl in Ring Of Pain. Speaking entirely in slightly busted rhyming couplets, and looking like Gollum cosplaying as a newborn chick, he’s got some of the worst vibes I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Worse still, he’s your only mate in a dungeon full of equally eerie creatures, and so you’ve got no choice but to hang out with him from time to time, chugging potions in his filth-encrusted nest.
Broadly speaking, Ring Of Pain is nothing revolutionary. It’s a dungeon crawler where you collect loot, attempt to synergise it into something broken enough to get to the bottom, and get sent back to the start when you die trying. There is a twist, in that each level of the dungeon sees you moving around a ring of cards representing monsters, treasures, or portals to other rooms, but beyond that, the format is instantly familiar.
It is, essentially, a well-designed take on a classic premise. For me, though, it stands apart from the pack thanks to the creativity of its item design, and interesting risk/reward dilemmas introduced by the ring format. What’s more, the superb sound and art direction manage to plunge the game into extremely creepy territory, without it ever feeling oppressively grim.
I’ve seen a lot of what the game has to offer at this stage (although it’s receiving regular and generous updates from programmer Simon Boxer), and yet I still have a go most days. The variety in the ways a run can pan out, plus the fact that even a successful game will rarely take more than half an hour to complete, makes it perfect for low-commitment quick plays. Very much recommended as a lunchtime treat, or a sort of hadal croissant to enjoy with your first coffee of the day.
Just don’t trust the bloody owl.