This is a rather interesting take on the “infinite rising / infinite falling” genre. It actually combines that format with some lite RPG elements to make a mostly fun but somewhat frustrating adventure. There are six game play modes (three of which need to be unlocked) and 19 achievements to earn through OpenFeint, so there is certainly quite a bit of variety for this type of game. Unfortunately, a brutal save system, slightly unbalanced game play and potentially by-design uber-sensitive controls tend to dampen the enjoyment for me. It’s too bad, as this is definitely one of the most original entries in this genre.
The three game play modes you start out with are story, hard story and rescue. I can’t really comment on the others because I haven’t unlocked them nor do I know how to. At any rate, in Rescue mode your task is to navigate your hero towards the sides of the screen, tapping all the helpless creatures that need to be rescued. In the mean time you need to avoid all the spiked objects that litter the screen, some of which are stationary while others are moving towards you. There might be more to this mode, but I can’t seem to get very far as there are an insane amount of spiked objects at any given time, and the overly sensitive controls ensure that I almost always move more to the left or right than I really want to at any given time. Needless to say I’m not a very big fan of this mode, though if the difficulty were tuned down a bit it might be kind of fun.
Then there’s story mode. This is where the game gets interesting, though it’s in no way less frustrating. You start off with a sword and some money, and you must make your way down a pit to slay an evil beast. Your character is constantly in motion, and the only control you have is to move him left and right. Along the way there will be monsters to fight, which you can kill just by running into them. Every monster leaves a coin, and you actually have to touch the coin to get it. No auto pick ups here. At the very beginning of the game and then once every so many meters you’ll encounter a store. The store will allow you to buy and sell armor, weapons and more. If you want to buy a better version of something you have you have to sell the old item first, as there is only one slot for each thing. It would be nice if the game handled this automatically for you, but it’s not a big deal.
The other thing you can do at the store is save your game. The problem is that it cost money, and for every subsequent store you find the price to save goes up, regardless of whether you took advantage of the save in a previous store or not. The problem with this is that so far I can barely earn enough money to either save or upgrade equipment, and without upgrading equipment you won’t make it very far in the game. It almost feels like a not so subtle way for the developers to discourage saving, especially since the save game is one of the features lacking in the Hard story mode. If there are people that really like this kind of save system then I say it’s okay as an option, but there really needs to be a baby mode for people who like to save whenever they want. Being able to save my game should not be a punishment, and that’s exactly what it becomes when I have to sacrifice my equipment money in order to save.
I’m also not so keen on is the controls, and the sad part is I think they are the way they are by design. Regardless of whether you use the touch or tilt method of control, your character moves really fast until you purchase a pair of boots, which then help you control him better. I’m all for this conceptually, but again the level of control is not consummate with the spacing and diminishing sizes of the platforms, which means you spend and awful lot of time dying simply because of bad control. Very rarely do I lose a game because I actually run out of hit points. Again, I could live with this if the save system were better, but the combination of the two means that I almost never make it past 100 meters in the game (and I know by the achievements that the pit is at least 700 meters deep). If nothing else the game needs a baby mode for those of us with little time and even less skill.
The graphics are actually pretty cool. The main character looks sort of like a mini-me version of Marge Simpson, but at least the visuals actually change as you equip him with different items. The critters are kind of cute, and more often then not don’t actually look like your garden variety dungeon crawling baddies. The sound effects are okay, though nothing very exciting. The one moment I do like is when you die and your character screams while falling down the pit, only to splash in the water at the bottom. That effect cracks me up for some reason. The music is a bit odd. There are occasions where it sounds really good, but most of the time it sounds like it is only two or three notes stuck in a loop. I’m not sure if that’s on purpose or if there is a problem with the playback, but either way it tends to get annoying quickly.
The base concepts of Dungeon Core are quite solid, and the game can be a lot of fun to play. The atmosphere is cool and the ability to buy goods to further your quest is a great addition to the genre. I just wish they’d come up with a better way to handle the save system and the issue with needing the boots to have any sort of reasonable control over your character. Maybe fixing one will downplay the other enough to cancel them out, but having them both in the game makes it a lot more frustrating than it needs to be.
Quick Looks link: [All About Quick Looks]