Review: Dungeon Twister (Sony PS3)
by Aaron Sirois on July 2, 2012

Dungeon Twister
Publisher: Hydravision
Developer: Hydravision
Genre: Board Game/Turn Based Strategy
Release Date: 07/03/2012

I’m all for board games getting PSN releases. I personally have a hard time finding anyone to play such games with, and the prices they range at are often much higher than I can afford for something that will see so little playtime. I’ve learned my lesson with Magic: The Gathering. I’ve spent hundreds if not over a thousand dollars on cards, but I have no one to play with at the moment. They’re just collecting dust. The same holds true for several board games.

That’s why Dungeon Twister appeals to me so much. Here was a well regarded board game that I would never get to play in person. A proper PSN version would be just the ticket, and the single player options combined with multiplayer support makes it very tempting. Not to mention I don’t have clean up tons of little game pieces when I’m done!

So, will fans have a new venue to support their hobby, or did this game get botched in translation?

Modes

I, like many potential players of Dungeon Twister, had never played the actual board game before starting this sucker. As such, a good tutorial was important. DT comes with a couple of options to learn the rules. You can read them outright, or go through training. Training comes with twenty levels that slowly introduce the various complex rules, items, and characters. The first level details movement, others focus on special abilities, how to use combat advantages, etc. For a beginner, this mode does a great job, culminating with with a full blown game that prepares you to go online and ply your new found skills. I love the mode, though it may come off as a bit slow to some people.

There are several single player options outside of the training mode. You can play a simple or advanced game against the AI. Simple games place all the pieces for you and start the game with the whole board revealed, while advanced adheres to the setup rules. There’s also a challenge mode. In challenge, you play against the AI to earn points. There are several levels, and the harder challenge award more points, which go towards your total on the online leaderboards. Harder challenges limit the number of characters you can use, and may also take away some of your attack cards. There are twelve of these challenges to go through, and the ability to try different strategies make is highly replayable. All of these options allow you to save the game and come back later, which is nifty.

Multiplayer is online only. You can play in quick matches against friends or in ranked matches. Player matches allow you to search for specific types of games, adjust the rules, and invite friends. You can even save a game in the middle, which is a hell of a nice feature. Ranked matches use standard rules and match you against whomever shows up first. The leaderboards keep track of your wins, losses, and score. My only issue is that the online doesn’t support voice chat, which was kind of a bummer.

For an interpretation of board game, this is a pretty feature-rich offering. The tutorial is fantastic, the single player options give you things to do when no one else is online, and the multiplayer (what the game was designed for), is more than up to snuff.

Graphics

The goal for this game was to convert a bunch of two-dimensional art into 3D models. For the most part, I’d call the game a success. It faithfully harkens the art style of the board game while adding some flourishes of its own.

The characters are very strong, apart from the wall-walker. She just looks dull. The troll, thief, cleric, wizard, goblin, and mekanork all look fantastic. Better yet, motion capture was used for battle animations, which make them about the most fluid I’ve seen compared to similar titles. Each character also has a unique dance move for when they escape the dungeon. These are amusing at first, and well animated.

Dungeon Twister has a great sense of color. Sure, there are plenty of gray and brown walls for you to traverse through, but there are other colors as well. In particular, the rich red of the lava is quite enjoyable, and the game does a good job of avoiding the drab look it could have been stuck with.

On a technical level, the game isn’t going to wow anybody. The environments are very simple, and there aren’t too many of those fancy animations. Still, the visuals are a very good representation of the board game, and not too bad on they eyes either.

Audio

Firstly, lets talk about the voices. There aren’t any spoken words, but there are grunts and wheezes galore. Annoying, the same grunt and/or wheeze follows every time you select a character. In particular, the wall-walker, thief, and wizard have annoying sound effects that get really old very quickly. Variety is the spice of live, and it won’t be found here.

The effects in general are very few. There’s the sound of a portcullis being smashed, gears turning, and a few others, but the game doesn’t lend itself to much variety. There are only so many items and characters after all. What’s here is fine, but it is nothing special.

Musically speaking, the game is uninteresting. The tunes try to come off as brooding and foreboding, but simply reach the level of elevator muzak. Unless you’re actively listening to them, you can barely tell they’re there. This is kind of sad, because some great music would be very welcome while waiting between turns. The lack of any real fanfare when you reach the exit is another disappointment. I don’t need Final Fantasy levels of epic, but something a bit more suitable than what is presented would be very much appreciated.

Gameplay

The object of Dungeon Twister is to score five “victory points”. You can score VP in two different ways. First, you can move one of your characters to the exit, worth one point unless that character is the goblin or carrying a treasure chest. In that case, you score two points. Secondly, you can ear a point by killing an opponent in combat.

In a regular game, things start off with a setup phase where four of the eight characters are chosen to be put on the starting line. The rest of the characters and all of the items are then placed face down on the board. Opponents alternate turns here, meaning competing for prime real estate is huge. When the game starts, the dungeon will be hidden, and only by spending action points, can parts be revealed.

AP is given at the beginning of each turn. From a hand of AP cards, the player selects one to get his/her AP total for the turn. All cards must be used before they are reshuffled, so balancing when to use what card is important. AP can be spent in a number of ways. Movement, battle, and special abilities all consume one AP. As such, you can never move everyone in one turn.

There are eight different characters in the game; thief, mekanork, wizard, cleric, warrior, goblin, troll, and wall-walker. Each has a combat score and a movement score. The movement score determines how many squares that character can move, while the combat score represents a base number used in determining the winner of a fight. Every character also has at least one special ability to help score VP. For example, the troll can regenerate after being wounded and the warrior can break down doors.

Combat is very simple. You start with two characters and their base scores. Points are added for any equipment they carry, as well as team boosts if there are friendly units in combat range. Then, both players select a combat card from their hand. The total values are added up, and the highest player wins. The loser is wounded, which prevents them from taking any actions. If a wounded character is defeated in battle, they die and are removed from the game. Once a combat card has been used, it is discarded, so choosing when to use the best cards is a huge strategical factor in the game. You don’t want to blow your +6 only to have your opponent throw a +0 out there. That gives them a huge advantage come next battle.

The controls are pretty straightforward. The left stick moves the cursor around the board and navigates menus. The X button is for confirm while the circle button is for cancel. When moving, you can see all available spaces for the character to occupy. The right stick allows you to zoom and rotate the camera to give the best view, and you can choose to follow your opponent’s actions if you should wish. The system works quite well, and I had no control issues at any point.

Overall, this is a pretty fun game and a stellar translation of a board game to a video game. The game is very strategical, with almost nothing coming down to luck. The only thing truly random is the dungeon itself, which will present challenges to both players. The “twister” mechanic that allows you to rotate the dungeon pieces is an absolute blast, especially when you can maneuver it so that pesky goblin gets a face to face meeting with your very angry troll. No two games are every alike, and I can see why the board game has so many fans.

Replayability

Each game will likely last at least fifteen minutes. Between training and challenges, that’s a good chunk of change right there. The challenge mode in particular will keep dedicated players coming back for more, as they implement new strategies and try to top the leaderboards.

The multiplayer options are where the real action is at. Between ranked matches and custom matches, fans are going to be able to sink hours and hours into this game no problem. At the time of this writing, the price of the game has yet to be announced. However, if stays in the ten to fifteen dollar price range, it’s a steal. The physical board game is much more expensive, and doesn’t have the luxury of online competition or single player options.

Balance

There are no difficulty settings when starting a regular single player match. Challenges come in the challenge mode, where handicaps force you to drastically rethink basic strategies. I prefer to stick a troll up by the opponent’s starting line during set up. That’s simply not possible when I have only three characters, as all must be placed on my own line. That really changes how I operate.

That being said, the AI is often not equipped to put together a decent strategy. What it will do is capitalize on any mistakes you make. If you leave your goblin in range of the warrior, prepare to have it attacked and likely taken down. I suppose the handicaps imposed in challenge mode are necessary to give the computer a fighting chance.

Online, the game is exceptionally balanced. Both players have the same pieces and cards. The only difference is how you use them. Perhaps more experienced players have a edge, but the game is fairly easy to pick up. In addition, getting creamed by a wizened veteran only serves to show you new ideas and strategies.

Every character, item, and card have uses. The troll might seem initially overpowered at first, but he’s slow and easy to gang up on. The instant kill of a fireball might seem too much to handle, but the wizard has to get the staff first, and is an easy character to take down. The thief might be able to fly through the dungeon, but rushing to the exit leaves the other characters in trouble if there are pits and closed doors in the way. It’s a hell of a deep game with far more strategy than your average board game.

Originality

For the most part, the game is completely lacking in originality. That’s simply because this is a translation of a board game. All of the mechanics were predetermined when the game was being made.

Now, there are some points that can be awarded. For starters, the challenge mode is a great addition. If gives players something to do when waiting for opponents and offers some tough but fun challenges to complete. The creation of this mode proves that Hydravision wasn’t going to simply make a cheap and dirty port. I’m impressed.

Addictiveness

I can honestly say this has become one of my favorite board games. I’ve been looking prices for physical copies online, because those have expansions and extra characters. I’m hoping these get brought on the PS3 as either DLC or a full on sequel.

That being said, the length of the games encourage players to play only one or two games before taking a break. I didn’t even go through the training in one go, because of how lengthy it was. Still, I constantly find myself going back, because no two games are ever the same.

If you’re looking for a new strategic fix, this game will certainly meet your demands. Just don’t expect to play for hours on end without getting a little fatigued.

Appeal Factor

For fans of the board game, this is a must buy. While it may not have the expansions, this game offers online multiplayer. You can play with people at any time, instead of waiting to find a friend who has time to play in person. If you want, you can use this game as practice for physical games, allowing you to get an edge up on opponents.

For people who haven’t played the board game before, this deserves strong consideration. The game is fun, and hopefully a strong online community will form to keep it going. Even if that doesn’t happen, the single player options are worth the price alone.

Miscellaneous

There are a couple of issues worth mentioning.

I’ve had intermittent communication issues in regards to inviting friends and/or joining a friend’s game. I also had my challenge score reset without warning. It’s possible that these problems will be fixed before the game is released to the public, but they’re things to look out for.

Another issue that sprung up is that the game won’t end when it becomes impossible for a single player to win. I played a challenge where I only had three characters and intentionally got them killed. This meant I couldn’t take any actions whatsoever. I couldn’t win. However, I still had to select and action point card and end my turn until the computer was able to get enough victory points to officially win. This just seems like an oversight, but is certainly a problem.

Besides these issues, the game is pretty darn good on every level. If the connection issues are fixed, there is nothing that would keep me from playing the game.

The Scores
Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Decent
Audio: Poor
Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Classic
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Enjoyable
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

If you enjoy board games that require more strategy than luck, Dungeon Twister should certainly be on your radar. This is a great translation of the acclaimed board game, complete with great training tools, single player options, and online multiplayer. I can easily recommend it to fans and non-fans alike. I could use a better presentation, and there are some minor issues to contend with, but don’t let that stop you. This is one PSN game you shouldn’t pass up.




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Aaron Sirois

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  • http://www.impkids.co.uk/ kids clothing

    This game looks like it has a good sense of playability and addictiveness.
    Only individual with brains are gonna have a good time playing it.

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