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Dungeon Hearts iPad Review

By , on March 28, 2013
Last modified 1 year, 6 months ago


Dungeon Hearts
Download on the AppStore
4 out of 5

PROS

  • Genuine sense of progression through skill; despite the 'random' nature of the game you're rewarded directly for skill instead of pure luck.
  • Clever gem-matching system rewards players for engaging its deeper mechanics, but doesn't overly punish those who stick to the basics.

CONS

  • Too unstable to play reliably; would be more forgivable if progression was saved, keeping some sense of flow in tact.
  • Later battles can be entirely unforgiving; only takes one slip-up to put you in intense uphill struggle.

VERDICT

It's easy to see why the intensely engaging Dungeon Hearts attracted the attention of a studio like Devolver Digital, but with crashes eating up progress it's hard to fall in love with the excellent title on offer.


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For a long while the three-match arcade puzzle mechanic concept slept in the back of the gaming consciousness, occasionally finding a sort of yawning, eye-squinting revival by being jammed in as an alternative to button mashing. Dungeon Hearts by Cube Roots and Devolver Digital could have easily slipped in to the same, rote (and boring) routine as those that have come before, but instead they offer an immediate and highly challenging experience.

In a way you can think of Dungeon Hearts as Bejeweled meets JRPG meets Rhythm Game meets Endless Runner - it's an odd combination, but one that forces you to constantly shift mental gears to survive your encounters with various creatures including mini-bosses.

Each attempt you make at completing the game goes a little something like this: Your four warriors are lined up from top to bottom and have a corresponding row emanating from them. A random assortment of gems will slowly make their way from the right side towards your heroes on the left, damaging or inflicting status damage if it's an 'enemy' gem. As for the rest? The colored gems can be dragged around freely (with some exceptions) to create groups of three, allowing you to unleash an attack. If these gems are aligned with enemy gems or other heroes you'll create a combo attack, absorbing similar colored gems to further boost the damage dealt.

Lost already? It gets even better! Match three of the same colored attack gems and you can sweep the board clear. Also, each hero eventually unlocks up to three different abilities (based on their level), turning the tide of battle once you have enough energy to activate them.

And how do you get those levels? Instead of simply being awarded a lump sum of 'experience points' you'll have to solve a mini-puzzle after a battle where each match will 'level up' the appropriate character. It's an ingenious system to behold as your progress is determined directly by your skill and not rote grinding - the more you play, the more your skills develop, making each enemy seem easier, and providing you with more levels to give you a better chance at taking out a boss and unlocking more of the game's back story.

Every piece of Dungeon Hearts interlocks perfectly; nothing feels out of place or unnecessary. From the gorgeous graphics telegraphing your actions to the smooth and intuitive control setup (swipes or taps work equally well), every minute of gameplay is a moment of joy.

However there's one huge caveat in all of this. The game is temperamental and prone to crashing - frequently. This would be less problematic if your progress was saved and you could continue from the start of the current fight, but alas you'll start from the beginning again.

With any luck this will be addressed sooner than later, but until then it remains a hard to ignore day one flaw. Dungeon Hearts deserves, nay, yearns to be on your iPad, but stability is needed to make its intense gameplay pay off in full.

Screenshots

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Comments

Avatar
SoShiBias 1 year, 6 months ago

Any news bout this will be available for iphone? I just love this and wanna try it!