Dungeon Maker DS
Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Global A Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Dungeon Maker is set in the village of South Arc, located in the Kingdom of Krolan. Monsters, known as Snake Apples, have been seen in the nearby forest and despite appealing to their local castle for soldiers to help defend them, the citizens of South Arc have been left to defend themselves. The reason for this is that monsters have been appearing everywhere in Krolan and there are no soldiers to help them. You play a twelve year old boy who has just graduated and is unsuccessfully looking for work. One day, whilst on top of a nearby hill, the boy hears a voice. It wasn't the voice of a person but that of a talking, magic shovel. The boy takes the shovel only to find out from the town mayor that anyone who touches the shovel will become the shovel's partner. The shovel's job is to dig dungeons into which you can lure the monsters.
The way you create your grid-based dungeons in the town caves is rather reminiscent of the way you built your dungeons in Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper games but in truth, whilst the game's initially seem similar they are quite different experiences. The goal here is to create a dungeon, install rooms that will lure monsters to come to your dungeon and then the following day enter the dungeon and battle them. The battles are turn-based and are fairly straightforward stuff. There's some strategy involved with attempting to lure three monsters into battle at once for a better chance to gain special bonuses. Essentially you need to build three rooms around a central square so that when your character walks in between them all three monsters that are residing in the rooms will come out simultaneously. Certain monsters are attracted to rooms that are placed in certain positions. Some like corners and some liked forked paths. Once you've a certain number of monsters in the dungeon you'll attract more important monsters and when these are defeated you'll be able to descend to new depths with your dungeon. It's important to note that you can change the layout of your dungeon at any time to allow you to try out different strategies and attract different monsters.
Outside of the dungeons you can visit various areas of the town such as the Furniture Shop, the Magic Shop, the Weapon Shop, the Mayor's home, the town square, the town gate and the ruins (where you can trade your dungeons with a friend who also has a copy of the game). From the Furniture Shop you can purchase items, such as feed barrels and beds, which you can place into your dungeon in an attempt to lure monsters there. You can purchase potions from the Magic Shop. The Weapon Shop allows you to buy weapons and armour. At times you'll need to visit the mayor and the town square where you can purchase various useful items from a young girl. You'll want to get your hands on various cooking ingredients as eating meals can be used to increase your character's attributes and different meals raise different attributes.
If there's a problem with Dungeon Maker, it's that it soon becomes repetitive. You'll start off with a basic dungeon and low level monsters. You'll make money from the battles, selling off any valuable items that you find. This will enable to you to buy more advanced rooms which will attract higher level monsters, taking your dungeon to new depths in the process and so forth. It wouldn't be so bad if the battles were anything other than simplistic (the monsters you fight do eventually become a little more challenging and you do gain two more characters who fight alongside you but it doesn't hide the fact that it's all simplistic stuff) or if there had been a storyline that was much more involving. The cycle of going to the dungeon, visiting the town shops to purchase what you need, returning home to sleep (to restore both your character's and the shovel's MP, which he needs to dig, place and remove rooms in the dungeons) before awaking next morning to enter the dungeon and start the cycle all over again, becomes tedious. You do get quests to complete but they don't really add much to the overall experience. This is a real shame as there's potential here for what is a good game to have been so much better.
In terms of its presentation Dungeon Maker is actually quite pleasant, if a little basic. The character graphics are typical anime in style with big eyes and bobble heads. The game, rather disappointingly, doesn't make use of the stylus. The touch screen is simply used to display your character's attributes and the condition of your character and the monster you're fighting against when in a battle. Dungeon Maker won't give deaf gamers any problems. All of the dialogue in the game is text only and you'll get to read the dialogue at your own pace as you need to press a button in order to move the dialogue forward. Quest details are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. The talking shovel will give you tutorial advice and this advice is exclusively in text. There are various guides for the monsters, weapons, armour types, food, items and rooms and all of the information in these guides is shown through the use of text, icons and pictures.
Dungeon Maker is one of those games that's difficult to form an opinion about. On the one hand it's a rather weak RPG. The battles in particular are incredibly simple, at least for the early part of the game and they don't become much more complex later in the game. There's not a lot to do outside of the dungeon and in terms of a storyline there's not much that's worthwhile about it. However, it can be addicting despite these problems and there's no denying that it can be fun trying to attract the different monsters to your dungeon whilst playing around with different room layouts. Still there's no denying that it does become repetitive. When played in short bursts this isn't quite so bad but for those who like to sink hours at a time into their games it might be a bit too much.