A famine suffocates the land and livestock, a plague works its fetid way through the townsfolk and whispers of an ancient evil reawakening in the mountains beyond the kingdom, the cause of all this suffering, are spreading at the local inn. The Queen is in desperate need to save her people, but “who shall be so brave, so insane, so vain as to try and best the creatures that live beyond for glory and adulation?”

Welcome to Traumatarium, a dungeon crawling nightmare for the Game Boy!

The title screen of Traumatarium

When Horatio of Eligos Games lost his dog and best friend Syd, turning to GB Studio and creating what would later become Traumatarium became an outlet for pulling his mind away from that dark place.

Rest in Peace Syd

The results are a story of darkness and bravery and while the catalyst of this project is indeed a sad one, the game itself is a joy to play. Made for the DMG Game Boy, the single monotonous palette adds to the gloomy tone of the adventure. In particular though, it is the expertly crafted graphics that will draw you into the richly detailed world, creating a sense of immersion rarely seen in the homebrew scene. AJ Booker’s moody and foreboding soundtrack is also packing a mighty punch in this regard too.

The entrance to one of the randomly generated dungeon rooms.

The game loop is a simple yet satisfying one. Enter one of the four dungeons, fight your way through ten randomly generated rooms to defeat a boss monster waiting in its depths and retrieve a kit of gold for your troubles. During turn based combat, the player can choose to attack or use items to heal either their health with bandages or potions, or eat food to heal their vitality (a mechanic that prevents enemy damage when at full capacity).

Turn-based combat in Traumatarium

Upon completion of a dungeon, the player can return to the town square to spend their hard earned gold. Take a trip to the shop to restock your supplies or the armorer to purchase more powerful weapons to use in combat. There is also a library to visit, where the player can learn how the in-game items work and an inn where progress can be saved. From there, the loop continues and the player can choose to dive head first into the more dangerous dungeons on offer and test their might!

The town’s inn

In addition to the digital release, Horatio has hand crafted a unique, quite frankly beautiful and (very) limited run of physical copies. Complete with a custom case, wonderfully designed instruction manual and glow in the dark cartridge, it’s almost a pity there are only a handful of them available – but on the other hand, that makes the edition all the more special!

Traumatarium’s physical version

When writing this article, Horatio made mention of two friends he had lost contact with years ago, but had reconnected when Traumatarium’s digital version was released. He says “so as dramatic as it sounds, it almost felt like this game was Syds last little gift to me”. While the combat is perhaps on the simple side, Traumatarium is an incredible release from Eligos Games and well worth checking out. I’d say it’s Syds last little gift to any Game Boy homebrew enthusiast!

You can play the free version of Traumatarium or purchase the deluxe version here.

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