Far below the surface is the land of Tangledeep, a subterranean place of forests, valleys and caves. The people there live happy, contented lives, but some yearn for adventure, to see the most secret thing there is. What is above. And so they enter dangerous caves, following the path upwards to discover what is hidden to all others.

Tangledeep is a sprite-based, top-down, dungeon crawling, roleplay game. Players take on the role of a hero, and choose from a selection of different classes. Each class can be leveled up, making new abilities available and increasing the hero’s base characteristics. Classes vary, with generic choices like Mage and Paladin, and unique roles such as Gambler and Budoka.

Central to the game is the turn mechanic. Each time the hero moves, or performs certain actions, a turn occurs. Player and enemy turns are simultaneous, so eating an apple will allow a vicious rat to advance, for instance. This calls for some careful planning in how the player moves the hero, and at what time they perform actions.

The game is divided into two areas, the town and the dungeons. Like most urban locations in this genre of game, the town provides players with a variety of stores and characters to interact with, as well as a respite from the enemies of the dungeon. There is also a selection of unique locations which provide the player with possible benefits, such as monsters to assist the hero and a bank to store items.

Of course, the bulk of the game happens in the dungeons. Players explore randomly generated levels, where they fight enemy creatures before ascending stairs to the next level. Some enemies drop loot, and containers are scattered around the map which also contain treasures. As the player ascends further, the dungeon enemies get harder.


The hero draws on three resources: health, stamina and magic. Different spells and abilities drain these resources, which are replenished as players find coloured orbs. Certain parts of the environment can affect players, such as rivers draining stamina when they are moved through.

There are three modes that Tangledeep can be played in. Which mode you choose affects what happens to your hero when they perish. Heroic mode retains any banked items and town progress, though players will have to start their character again from level 1. Adventure mode removes the player’s current level progress and unspent level points, as well as an amount of money. Hardcore mode is the classic permadeath.

Tangledeep is obviously inspired by retro JRPGs, in both look and mechanics. The visuals are very reminiscent of early entries into the genre, such as Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star. Character sprites are impeccably realised, with lots of nice details and flourishes, comfortably riding the line between cartoonish and serious.


This love of the classics has also been funneled into the game play and mechanics. There is a real sense that a lot is going on behind the scenes, with various effects and bonuses in play, and an ability to add to the hero to boost their effectiveness. It seems like there is an opportunity to go deep into how everything works, in order to create an optimal hero, which is very in keeping with early JRPGs.

Unfortunately, this is also where Tangledeep unravels. The game feels dense, in a lots-of-options-to-work-through kind of way. A slew of choices are required to be made from the outset, with no knowledge about how they translate into the game play. Some of it can be deduced straight away, or figured out after hours of playing, but coming in this blind is bound to disenfranchise a lot of players.

There is a minimal tutorial which details how to move, assign abilities and heal the hero. However, little is done to help put these actions into the larger context of the game, or even present the foundation of what everything is built upon. Weapons and abilities provide details on damage and cost, but without an idea on what this applies to, the information is largely meaningless.


Menus have a definite old-school feeling to them, but they are clunky and unintuitive. Inventory and character management has progressed in the decades since early JRPGs to include intuitive interfaces and streamlined usability. Tangledeep could have retained the retro menu design but applied a more modern approach, thus negating a lot of the drudgery caused by inventory and character management.

Even with all these issues, Tangledeep is not a bad game. Not by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is a very specific game, which is going to appeal to a particular type of player. These are players who revel in discovering the mechanics of a game, who enjoy making mistakes and learning from them. Players who seek out retro JRPGs because of their repetitive and grind-like nature.

I don’t disdain the time I spent playing Tangledeep, but I doubt I will return to the game. However, players who love the retro titles of this genre are bound to find a lot to like.

Score: 62%

Tangledeep is developed and published by Impact Gameworks. It is currently in Early Access and available for purchase right now on Steam.

Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 6 hours

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