Dungeon Maker

When I first saw the name of this game, I’ll admit to getting rather excited.  The thought of dungeons, creatures and management put me in mind of one of my all time favourite games – Dungeon Keeper. I leapt at the chance to review it, even though the  couple of screenshots I had seen were cutesy and colourful.  No matter, I thought…it’s about time the DS had a game like this!  Let’s get it straight from the start though – Dungeon Keeper, this is not.  I was gleefully rubbing my hands as I imagined evil finally spreading onto the DS.  Perhaps laden with sarcasm and dark humour, oozing with the promise of nasty deeds, but the moment I picked up the manual and read the words ‘magic talking shovel’, I knew it was not to be.  Not a farting Bile Demon or svelte whip-cracking Dark Mistress in sight, this is the diet coke of evil, or rather, the Soda Stream version with added sugar.  So I reconciled myself instead to what I imagined would be a fun, intensive jaunt into dungeon making and monster bashing with possible side helpings of twee, with much stat monitoring along the way.  I wasn’t entirely right there either.

You play as the hero, a 12 year old (boy, natch) with the requisite jaunty hair, dwelling in a little town painted with a lush Willy Wonka palette.  Very cute and warm; easy on the eye…far from dungeon-making material, surely.  Not so, it would seem.  Monsters have been seen around your village of South Arc and local surrounds and are troubling the entire kingdom of Krolan. So much so that the town’s plea for help to the local castle has been ignored. The villagers take matters into their own hands in true RPG style – by sending a child to do the job while they sit around and moan about it.

Your task is to rid the surrounding lands of monsters and to make the town worthy of lucrative tourism for the grabbing Mayor into the bargain.  With the aid of your magical shovel, you start to dig out your dungeon, limited only by the number of magic points your shovel has per day.  Yes, you read that correctly – your shovel has magic points.  And a mouth.  And very irritating accompanying music.

Excavating earth and installing furniture (which can be purchased in the tiny hub town) attracts creatures into your new place which you can then happily slaughter.  A little more sinister than one would first think then.  No pandering to ungrateful or lazy minions here, oh no.  They’re lured in and slain and the best bit?  Their meat can be used in conjunction with gathered recipes to make a tasty meal every night which has the added bonus of levelling you up.  Different meals can level up different skills, such as speed, or strength.

It is a seemingly bizarre combination of ideas and it took a while to get my head round whether or not it worked.  Along the way you’ll be given little quests by townsfolk, namely errands of the ‘find me this’ variety which seem to be fulfilled at random by the only thing there is really to do i.e killing monsters repeatedly until the items turn up in loot.

On one hand, we have purchasing furniture, running errands for lazy townsfolk and making odd meals out of crow legs and dry slime, and on the other we have the staple checklist of monsters, MP, HP, attack and defence stats and annoying turn-based combat.  I’m not quite sure whether it’s a sim, RTS, RPG, or a lite-cooking game and to be honest, I don’t think the game quite knows.  It doesn’t seem to do any one thing with any real depth or conviction and even after hours of play, you’re struggling to cope with the realisation that this really is it.  It doesn’t get any more interesting and there are no hidden depths waiting to ambush you.

There are some interesting ideas here, (though nothing uncommon), but in mixing the elements together and not doing any of them particularly well, it has produced a shallow and sadly, rather dull game.  The graphics in the hub town are colourful and the menus and stats are clearly laid out, but  the premise, though refreshing and unique in comparison to most games, is poorly executed, proving rushed and thin, making for a game as flimsy as a Blake’s Seven set.

Undoubtedly the DS is perfect for titles such as this, and cries out for a management game with a difference or even a RPG that straddles the line into another genre with aplomb but this one falls somewhat short.







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