Inside Pulse 12

Review: DaGeDar (Nintendo DS)

DaGeDar
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Developer: Black Lantern Studios
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 11/15/2011

At this point in my DHGF career, I’ve become the guy who can be depended upon to review any random DS game based off a TV show/children’s toy. This isn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world to be known for, but I go with it.

In actuality, I’m consistently interested in how these games will translate, especially after Bakugan proved that such a game could work. DaGeDar looked like an interesting racing game, so I figured I’d volunteer for it.

The toys are nothing more than metal ball bearings that must be dropped in a special way so as to go through a track without flying off. There are dozens of different toys with different pictures on them, which could translate into a vast pool of playable characters. The question remains: was this translated into a good game?

Modes

DaGeDar has no story, but offers three modes that take you through the game’s thirty-three courses more times than I can count.

The first mode in Championship. Here, you pick a character based off of a few stats and race in a best of five tournament against another racer. There are three championships to begin with, followed by another three when you beat those. Finally, the final championship is a best of three event. It’s worth noting that even if you win enough races to win the championship before the last race, you’ll need to complete them all.

Time Attack simply has you racing a track to your heart’s content in order to set a new best time. There’s also a target time for you to beat. If you can, you’ll unlock a new racer, which you can also do by winning a championship. Though there are no leaderboards or anything to compared your times with, the ability to unlock new racers makes up for that quite well. It is worth noting that the par times are going to be hard to reach until you’ve unlocked some better racers in the championship.

Finally, you have practice mode. This allows you to run a track at your leisure. Without having to worry about beating a time or an opponent, you’re free to search for shortcuts and study the track. I didn’t utilize this much, but it can prove a valuable tool.

There’s also a local wireless multiplayer element to this game. You can race a single race or a championship, but you’re restricted to two players. However, you don’t need two copies of the game to play, so that’s a bonus.

This is a pretty standard setup for a racing game. It may lack the bells and whistles of other games in the genre, but it offers enough for a budget licensed title.

Graphics

There are a hundred different racers in the game, each with their own animal/silly face/serious face/whatever drawn on to add personality. Of course, when the action gets going, they all look like colored blurs, so there isn’t much point to that.

Levels are surprisingly good looking, featuring detailed backgrounds and things like flying sand in the foreground. Unfortunately, this level of detail is not met with the tracks. They’re generic looking green lines that loop around with gaps that serve as jumps and a small handful of obstacles. The big problem here is that despite the change in theme, the tracks never change in appearance, which kind of kills the look.

DaGeDar goes at a pretty quick speed. It’s worth mentioning that the game doesn’t suffer any slowdown and that you’re rarely caught unawares as to what’s on the screen, which can happen in these kinds of games. Strategically placed signs warn you of jumps and harsh turns, which keeps things from getting frustrating. Overall, the game looks decent, but lacks enough variety to keep you interested.

Audio

The music in this game is generic, but fitting. The tunes have a techno-rock vibe that doesn’t do much to stick in your mind, but does the job of fitting the game well enough. However, you’re unlikely to really notice it while playing the game.

As far as sound effects go, there is a rather nice one involving the racer rolling on the track. It reminds me of Puzzle Dimensions, and though it might not be the most fitting sound, it is still satisfying. The rest of the effects are again, generic but fitting.

There isn’t a lot going on in the aural department, but what’s here is satisfactory enough. You can safely play with or without the sound and have a similar experience.

Gameplay

For a racer, DaGeDar is pretty simple. You hold the a directional button in the direction you wish to go, and you go. Beyond that, all you have to do is jump and manage your boost. However, there is more to it than simple controls.

There are several obstacles on each track. Some are basic, such as gaps in the track and rough sections that slow you down. However, there are also cannons that launch you into the sky, loops that require you to maintain speed, and plenty of exploitable shortcuts. Also, if you start heading in the opposite direction, as the course are vertical as well as horizontal, then you’ll need to move in the either direction. Much of the game is timing the switch and making sure you don’t lose speed.

Where the game fails, however, is the lack of interaction with your opponent. Though you can see him on your screen, you can’t interact with him in any way. There are no attacks, chances to slow them down, or even simply bumping into them. Thus, the only interaction you’ll have is simply trying to reach the end faster than them.

The final key element in the gameplay is boost management. You don’t start off with any boost, but rather must pick it up during the course of the race. You can use it to get a burst of speed, but it depletes rapidly, so managing it is essential to victory.

There are a hundred different racers in the game, and each have their own stats. These are speed, acceleration, and control. Of the three, I only found the first two to really matter. There’s little in the way of balance here. All of the early racers outright suck, but the later ones are much better.

Overall, the game has a great since of speed, but the lack of interaction between you and your opponent leaves the experience less than satisfying. The game also fails to evolve over time. You’ll see all of the obstacles on the first track. Sure, tracks get trickier, but there’s nothing new to throw at you. So while there are pluses, the game doesn’t live up to its potential.

Replayability

There are three different difficulties to play through, but each sets you out on the same courses. Likewise, you’ll spend countless hours on time trials on those courses as well. This can easily lead to burnout. The thirty-three courses simply do not vary enough from each other in a way that suits replayability.

What does add to the replay value, however, is the desire and ability to collect all one hundred of those racers. You get one for winning each championship, another one if you can win all five races in said championship, and one for beating each time in Time Trial. New racers are constantly thrown at you, which can keep you going until you’ve unlocked them all. If you do end up going for them, the game’s length is increased four fold. Otherwise, you’ll likely only get a few hours out of it.

Balance

There is no difficulty curve in this game whatsoever. Despite the fact there are three different difficulty settings, you’ll face the same challenge level throughout the whole game. This is because each subsequent championship pits you against a stronger opponent while simultaneously giving you a stronger racer. What this means is you’ll be moving as fast as you can, but not going anywhere. You can certainly see the improvement in your overall lap times, but moving forward in the game feels like a walk through a swamp. It’s slow and tedious.

The game is also quite challenging until you memorize the courses. The AI racers rarely make mistakes and usually have better stats than you, meaning any big mistake on your part will likely cost you the race. Also, with your stats being so close, it is very hard to mount a comeback. As such, races usually end in one of two outcomes: someone wins by a hair or someone wins by a mile. When it’s by a mile, it’s usually the computer by the way. Using practice mode to learn the tracks is highly recommended as a result.

Originality

I’d hardly call anything this game does original, though that is no slight against the game itself. Everything it does is based off of other simple racing games. However, this kind of game truly suits the franchise best. The toys are nothing more than racing ball bearings, so the game didn’t have much wiggle room for originality.

Addictiveness

If you’re a fan of the toys, it can be assumed that you’d want to keep playing so as to unlock all of your favorites ans see how they stack up in the stats department. Otherwise, this game is very easy to put down.

Since tracks feel so similar, there’s no desire to move onto the next championship to see what it has to offer. You also will undoubtedly play the tracks so many times that you can run them in your sleep. There is no variety to keep things interesting. I had trouble playing for more than fifteen minutes or so at a time. Even then, that time allotment was only because that’s how long it took to get through a championship.

Appeal Factor

The game is a budget title, unlike other recent toy adaptations. However, the game doesn’t have a TV show to support it, and the toys are relatively new on the market place. It makes it hard for this game to stand out on the shelf.

For racing fans, there might be some minute interest, especially if you’ve played MarioKart to death, but there are still better options on the DS. This game isn’t bad by any stretch, but it is going to have trouble finding an audience.

Miscellaneous

There really isn’t anything left to say about this game. It is thoroughly unremarkable. It did have some potential, but none of it was seized upon. By making races between more than one ball, or adding some interaction between racers, this game could have been so much more interesting. The courses also needed more variety. I have a couple of favorites, but I honestly couldn’t find them without playing through a whole championship again.

There’s a lot to improve upon here, but the franchise a video game can work. It’s just a matter of striking the right chord.

The Scores
Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Very Poor
Appeal Factor: Very Poor
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Score: Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

DaGeDar is better than your typical licensed game in that it fits the license, and it isn’t broken in any way. However, the game is still thoroughly uninteresting in every aspect. For racing fans or toy fans, it might be worth a look because of the budget price. For anyone else, you can safely avoid this game and never worry that you were missing anything. Here’s hoping the next toy game I play brings something worthwhile to the table.

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