Brave Dwarves Delivers Lighthearted Platformer

Posted: May 12, 2009 in Platformer

Have you ever wondered what two dwarves could do in the battle between good and evil? That is the premise behind Brave Dwarves, a new platformer set in a fairy tale world of magical spells and supernatural monsters. As fun as it looks, Brave Dwarves has what I consider key two ingredients—deep content and responsive controls—that make this a terrific game.

Brains vs. Brawn is the name of the game where you have the choice of playing as the metaphysical Wizard or as the powerful Warrior. The Gate that separates the worlds of good and evil has been damaged and driven the dwarves out of their underground kingdom. Your objective is to repair the Gate, while ridding the underground kingdom of the evil invaders and gathering treasures. This also involves locating 3 big keys to open the door to the next level.

Visually, the game looks great—but then again, I like dwarves and dungeons—with smooth frame rates. Combined with the whimsical music, it offers the right mix of lightheartedness you’d want with a game called Brave Dwarves. With more than 100 levels, content will definitely not be an issue, and replayability will come with unlocking new powers. There are 5 worlds in the game: Old Mines, Factories, Magic Forest, Gloomy Castle and Golden Palace culminating with a boss battle after every 20 levels with the likes of Yeti, Steam Boiler, Golden Neck, Fire Master, and Penny-Pincher.

Each hero has 12 unique weapons. The Wizard’s weapons include water, suriken (think boomeranging ninja star), lightening, fireball, icicles, and earthquakes. The Warrior has his own set of weapons including axe, fireball, spiked star, lightening, and the dancing rock (think horizontal earthquake). A unique aspect is that these weapons are acquired by finding the Power Orbs of which there are four types: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It’s an intricate weapons set-up in Brave Dwarves that adds a layer of complexity to the game, one that I appreciate. But there’s actually more. In order to fuel these orbs to tap their special energies, you must collect diamonds. The type of diamond collected—red, blue, green and white—determines what weapons/power is activated. For example, by collecting red diamonds, your Warrior can create fires in front of enemies, or as the Wizard turn himself into a raging inferno. Like I said, a lot of thought has been put into Brave Dwarves, and we’re just talking about the weapons.

What kind of game would Brave Dwarves be without potions? You have 3 different potions—Rejuvenation restores full/half/quarter of health; Invisibility/cloaking makes monsters unable to inflict any damage, and Clock freezes monsters in place for 30 seconds.

Having played a number of platformers for the iPhone/iPod Touch, platform games have been a mixed bag for me in large part due to the controls. They can either be a huge selling point or a tremendous hindrance to a game’s success. With Brave Dwarves, you have a choice of controls—accelerometer and d-pad—and both work well in terms of responsiveness and accuracy. To jump, slide your finger up, and the same applies to climbing ladders, just slide in the direction you want to climb. To shoot, tap anywhere on the screen. I tried both control schemes, and each works as intended with a minimal learning curve. They’re really as intuitive as they can be, and Brave Dwarves get them right. One minor issue that occasionally came up was in sliding to climb, I would accidentally fire a spell, but I think this had more to do with me getting comfortable with the controls.

I found the gameplay generally entertaining and challenging. When you begin, you must select between the Wizard and the Warrior, and the game will store the separate games played as the Wizard and as the Warrior so you can easily switch back at forth between the characters before beginning a session. A map is available showing the progress through each of the worlds as well as levels completed is designed to allow you go back to previously completed levels to boost your scores and secure additional powers.

On the screen, an Orb on the left-hand side shows how much power/shots you have, and on the opposite side is Red Orb showing lives left and energy. During the game, you can activate available powers by tapping the Orb. The screen is full of gems as well as a few surprises, and the keys are conveniently located all over the levels. Remember that your powers drain with each spell, and you don’t have the luxury of missing jumps or too many gems. Because you have to travel the entire length of each level and sometimes double back, enemies tend to respawn.

An area that could use some tweaking is the graphics. While very clear, there are times when certain elements can blend in with the surrounding environment, making them hard to see. Also, instructions can be lacking so you may not have a complete understanding of what’s going on and why.

As a smoothly animated platformer, Brave Dwarves offers an entertaining experience with a good deal of content and depth. And the best part is that you have dwarves doing the dirty work.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for dwarf lovers and otherwise)

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