Doodle Hex DS
Published by: Bitbox Games
Developed by: Tragnarion Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Taking a quick look at Doodle Hex and not actually sitting down and playing the game for more than say thirty minutes, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was just a magical flavoured mini-game that was hardly worth more than a cursory look. In fact the way the game simply throws you from battle to battle makes this an easy conclusion to arrive at. Delve into it a little more and you'll find an original rune-based battle system that's both addictive and fiercely challenging.
Doodle Hex offers three single-player modes and three multiplayer modes. To begin with the only single-player mode you'll have access to is Tournament. Here you'll pick one of fourteen characters to play as (only ten are initially available) who are all bound for the College of Runes. Each of the characters has their own background and reasons for going to the College of Runes. Samedi, for instance, attempted a voodoo spell that went wrong and turned his brother into a voodoo doll. The book he got the spell from happened to be published by the College of Runes so he heads there to find someone who can help him reverse the spell. The storylines are trifling in all honesty and you'll select your preferred character according to how their attributes stack up. Each of the characters is rated out of five stars for offense, defence and speed. The characters are given nine stars which are distributed between these three abilities so you can choose to go for a well rounded character or one that is stronger in one of the abilities.
Another single-player mode is Quick Duel which allows you to have a one-off battle against an AI opponent. You'll get to set the number of rounds, the time limit and the difficulty level (there are three difficulty levels in the game). Finally you'll pick your preferred character to play as and an opponent. Challenges is a mode where you have a collection of challenges to undertake. Complete your chosen challenge and you'll earn a reward such as an additional runes for Quick Duel and multiplayer games. The multiplayer modes are Normal Game, which allows you to play against someone else who has a copy of the game; Trade Rune is where you can trade your runes with a friend and finally there's the Download Play Option which allows you to play against a friend who doesn't own a copy of the game. It's a little disappointing that the game doesn't support the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service however.
Let's take a look at the rather unusual battle system then. Essentially, in a battle you'll have a drawing board on which to draw a rune with the stylus. This rune will travel around the outside of the drawing board and make its way, in an anticlockwise direction, towards your opponent. Your opponent will be doing likewise of course and sending runes in your direction. Drawing runes requires mana and your mana will refill over time. The battles carry on until one of the player's health has been reduced to zero. Most battles are made up of a number of rounds. This may seem like it's all too simple but there are several things to consider. There are many different types of runes. Green Runes cause damage and will lower the strength of a shield if it's defended against. Red Runes inflict more damage than Green Runes and will even do damage if defended against with a shield (you can form a shield by holding down your stylus on your character's avatar but it goes without saying that you can't draw runes and shield yourself at the same time). Blessings are runes that have beneficial effects on those who create them. It's worth noting that different runes travel around the drawing board at different speeds. The more powerful attacks usually take longer to reach your opponent. There is even a pet which can store hex for you so that you can 'fire' it at your opponent with a single tap during a hectic moment. You can also create perfect runes which are stronger variants but it's difficult to create these. Finally there are Curses which can have some rather strange effects on your opponents. Of course the real key to success in Doodle Hex is creating combos. Combos are created when you draw the second rune when the first rune has reached a specific point on the way to your opponent. Your opponent will have all of these options available too, and it can make for some really involving battles that require a fair bit of thought. At times the game can actually be quite difficult.
Graphically there's not much to the game although it does have a rather quirky cartoon style. You will miss out on most of the artwork shown on the top screen during a battle however as your view will be fixed on the touch screen where the drawing board is. The game is also deaf gamer friendly with all dialogue and tutorial messages being in text. The real problem with Doodle Hex is that aside from the battle system, there is hardly any substance to the game. The storyline is wafer thin and simply a method of taking you swiftly from one battle to the next. As a single-player experience the novelty wears thin pretty quickly which is a shame. Maybe a fully fleshed out storyline and some greater variations in the battle system would have given the game longer lasting appeal but as it stands it's a game that will give you little reason to return to the single-player game after a week or two. If you have friends to play against then it's not so much of a problem as playing against human opposition can be much less predictable. In short Doodle Hex offers a great battle system but a great battle system by itself isn't enough.