Dungeon Raiders impressive in wizard chronicles and initial levels

Posted: August 16, 2009 in Platformer

Dungeon Raiders is an impressive game combining RPG elements within a highly playable platformer. Utilizing humor throughout, you play the role of Glandalf, a wizard in search of his friend Luigi who’s been kidnapped by the Giant Parrot. Offering 3D graphics which can be somewhat blocky, the game is played from an overhead perspective as you guide Glandalf through mazes overcoming obtacles, solving puzzles, and battling the various enemies from within.

The story is a bit convoluted but funny nonetheless. In a roundabout way, Glandalf needs to rescue his friend Luigi, an expert thief, in order to rescue his other friend Butcho. An executioner with more brawn and not much else, Butcho is being exploited by Count Dracula, and Glandalf feels the urgency to save his friend from the unfair employment practices of Prince of Darkness. In many ways, it’s fitting in today’s economic environment, and I’m sure a college course will be appearing shortly to discuss the underlying sociologic aspects.

In this initial version, Dungeon Raiders consists of five levels: Pirate Cove, Stronghold, The Mine, Secret Cave, The Secret Isle. While it’s not ideal to release only part of the game, more levels will hopefully be available soon in future updates or DLC since the full Nintendo DS version due out August 29 is said to have additional levels with Egyptian and Dracula themes.

The theme is pirates, and there’s a nice flavor that includes different types of pirates with the complementary wooden legs and hooks for hands. Dungeon Raiders incorporates a good amount of humor to keep you engage, and none is more apparent than with the enemy pirates. The typical pirate comes in for close sword attacks, while others fire bullets from longer range. Others include charging pirates fitted with hockey helmet, while others explode when near you as is the case with the kamikaze pirates.

Glandalf himself is the wizard comedian who states clearly that he’s “not Carl Lewis” so don’t attempt jumps that are too long. On this journey, he speaks to the player through dialog boxes where he offers guidance, introduces new skills, and provides the rudimentary warnings all with a humorous bent of a wacked out old wizard.

While the game has an opening soundtrack, it’s non-existent during the game. The sound effects for the most part have the obligatory noises that pirates make (e.g. Argh!) and maniacal laughter that accompanies drinking too much rum. In this initial release, there is a minor sound bug that occasionally pops up, but definitely not a big deal. The 3D environments are well rendered with animation that runs lag-free on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0.

Glandalf’s movements are controlled through a directional pad which for the most part is responsive. Some of the levels contain narrow paths, and those with bigger fingers may find it less than accurate. Because Glandalf faces a fair share of pirate attacks, he’ll need to defend himself. The most basic defense requires a simple tap of the enemy to knock him down. But, double tap the directional pad and Glandalf goes into a roundhouse attack, jumping and hurling a swirling kick. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it works especially when dealing with more than one pirate.

A separate jump button is included for making the short leaps across inlets and over spikes as well the Blue Magic button for invoking spells. What would a wizard be without magic powers? Fortunately, Glandalf has powers that you gradually learn through the game. These powers are activated by tapping the Blue Magic button followed by a specific finger gesture.

Replica—creates a temporary double of Glandalf…made of straw
Telekinesis—allows you to drag barrels and crates with your finger
Telekinetic Breath—blow a barrel in a specific direction

As these spells are activated, they are kept in the Spellbook which is useful when you need a reminder of which finger gesture does what. The finger gestures work remarkably well and as long as you’re in the ballpark fingerwise, the spell works. It’s rather creative when you think about it since traditional wizards are known for a lot of finger waving. In actuality, I had more problems tapping the Blue Magic button since it’s located close to the jump button. You just have to be very deliberate otherwise Glandalf will jump instead of invoke.

Besides the spells, Glandalf can gain extra health with every 10 coins he collects. The Healing Fountain located in key areas automatically recharges Glandalf’s health when he gets near one. The fountain also serves as a checkpoint so Glandalf will return to the last one if he faces an early demise.

Dungeon Raiders offers some fun gameplay. You’re never really overwhelmed with pirate fights or even with the level of difficulty in the puzzles, but you do face an obstacle course similar to what you’d find in an Indiana Jones movie right down to the giant boulders chasing you down corridors and paths. Getting through gateways can take some creativity as well since most are activated by weight-based switches. This is often where the Replica spell is useful since it creates a temporary double. In addition, certain switches need to be flipped and even some logic puzzles are thrown in for good measure. Along the way, sign posts provide often cryptic, riddle-like warnings and if you’re like me, Glandalf will get crushed before you figure it out. An important tool is the included mini-map that when tapped enlarges to fill the screen. This will identify where switches, healing fountains, and the end of the level are located. But, it won’t warn you of enemies or obstacles that await.

It’s an impressive initial release for Dungeon Raiders, and although I’m disappointed that the game was not released in its entirety, the gameplay brings a different level of fun to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. While the controls could be tightened up a bit, the visuals and level of content in Chapter 1 show immense promise and sets a strong tone for future chapters.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (fun and entertaining game that includes basic RPG elements; initial release only has the first 5 levels which is not ideal but not a deal breaker; engaging gameplay and humor with a crazy storyline)

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