How do you melee attack without getting hit?

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I often find I run out of staff crystals which, so far, has been a dear sentency for me. I can't seem to ever hit an enemy with my sword without them hitting me 2 or 3 times before they hit me. What's the secret here? The game is hardly randomly generating levels that are not possible to beat?

One More Dungeon

There are some enemies that you just can't attack. The little guys that throw stones are the earliest ones. The rats might also be an issue. The green slugs are a good enemy to practice with. You need to run into them directly and moments before you are going to bash into them trigger a melee attack. By the time you hit the enemy you should hit them right away. The slugs will usually make an attack animation but will not actually hurt you.