Game Reviews

Dungeon Raid

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| Dungeon Raid
Dungeon Raid
| Dungeon Raid

What do you get if you cross a match-three puzzler with a role-playing game?

You get Puzzle Quest, obviously, but you also get Dungeon Raid, which has you battling monsters, levelling-up, and acquiring equipment as you match tiles on a 2D grid.

Yes, I know that sounds exactly like Puzzle Quest, but the two games are more different than you might think, drawing their influences from opposing ends of the RPG spectrum.

While Puzzle Quest 2’s match-three gameplay is augmented by an unfolding fantasy narrative and reams of dialogue, Dungeon Raid’s design is informed by the roguelike - a stripped down RPG subgenre in which death is permanent and multiple playthroughs are the norm.

The game is just one lengthy battle that you’ve no hope of winning, played as many times as you like. You choose your class at the outset, and then it’s just you versus the grid, which spits a never-ending stream of enemies at you as you apply level-ups and upgrades in a doomed last stand.

The reward? Highscores and OpenFeint glory.

You can’t take them with you

Dungeon Raid’s match-three mechanic has you sliding your finger across matching adjacent tiles to create chains, which promptly vanish. Since you can join tiles in any direction, including diagonally, clearing large chunks of the board is a common occurrence.

Potion and shield tiles refill your health and armour respectively, while sword tiles are used to rain destruction down on your foes. You can give them an extra good wallop by creating a chain that includes enemy characters – represented by skull tiles – as well as swords. For more powerful attacks, you simply draw a longer chain with more swords.

In contrast to the considered cascades of Bejeweled and its bastard offspring, Dungeon Raid’s gem-matching is fast-paced, with a focus on managing and gathering like resources, rather than searching out swaps on a crowded board.

Level-ups, skill unlocks, and upgrades all add to this sense of pace, as your character develops quickly and new abilities appear frequently. Before long, you’ll have acquired offensive spells, enchanted armour, and charmed weaponry – but remember, once your character dies those powers and trinkets go with them to the grave.

That’s so random

The randomised availability of upgrades and abilities means that repeated playthroughs are punctuated with new discoveries, and you’re free to try radically different approaches every time you take on the grid.

The ability to unlock new character classes also keeps you experimenting with the game. You’ve a stronger will than us if the lure of a fresh class isn’t enough to prompt empty promises of ‘just one more go’.

Unfortunately, the rate at which these classes appear is on the slow side, so the meta-game lacks some of the Skinner Box appeal that arises from a steady stream of unlockables. What’s more, the choices you make in terms of equipment and skills seem to have a greater impact on the game than your choice of class.

Score to settle

Those expecting overarching progression and a narrative to follow will be disappointed by the results of this genre mashup, but Dungeon Raid’s roguelike attributes actually make it well-suited for mobile play. Each game is an involved and often tense affair, with room for varying approaches and an emphasis on player choice.

And each game is short – short enough for a quick playthrough on the bus into work, or another go towards the end of your lunchbreak, say.

For a title that depends on the allure of the highscore to keep you engaged, OpenFeint integration is surprisingly clunky. A more polished in-app solution, which displayed your scores prominently alongside those of your friends, would add to Dungeon Raid’s long-term appeal.

Nevertheless, the pacy match-three gameplay stands up well to repeated playthroughs, and Dungeon Raid manages to hack its own little niche in the crowded match-three marketplace.

Dungeon Raid

Puzzle Quest is the obvious analogue, but Dungeon Raid’s pace and emphasis on replayability helps it to stand out as a fine game in its own right
James Nouch
James Nouch's news editor 2012-2013