by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
My mommy made me swear not to gamble
I’m not much for tabletop games. I don’t have enough interested friends or the patience to setup an intricate playing field and learn a bunch of arcane rules. Dungeon Twister, the PSN version of a real-life board game with the same name, solves a lot of these problems by digitizing everything. While it hasn’t converted me into a regular board game player, there’s enough compelling gameplay here to make it a worthwhile for fans of the genre.
Dungeon Twister’s main draw is its lack of randomness. Unlike many other tabletop games, there are no 20-sided dice rolls or unplanned card draws. The goal of the game is simple: first to five points wins. Getting those five points, however, is anything but.
The playing field is a 4x2 grid of dungeon squares, each a mini 5x5 labyrinth unto itself with traps, doors and other contraptions. Each player chooses four of eight possible characters and starts on either side of the grid. As your characters wend their way through the maze, you gain a point if you kill an enemy or make it to your opponent’s side.
The dungeons start off upside down, but are revealed when a character lands on them. Before the game starts, players get to assign items to the dungeons. When a character lands on an untouched dungeon, each player gets to specifically place his - opponent’s items - on the grid within. It’s a Machiavellian twist magnified by the fact that characters can rotate the dungeons as well (hence the name of the game), completely changing the layout of board as a whole.
Do the Mekanork Shuffle
Developer Hydravision adds to the strategy at every opportunity. The characters - which range from standards like Warrior, Priest and Thief to the more exotic Mekanork and Wall Walker - all have special abilities and items only they can use. The Mekanork, for example, can rotate dungeons in either direction, the Wall Walker can, well, I’ll leave its special ability as a surprise.
Gameplay is further compounded by action points. Each player gets four action point cards that range in value from two to five and govern character activity. The caveat is that you have to use all four cards before you can replenish them, so you need to see what cards your opponent uses and take into account his future capabilities. Attacking enemies is governed by a similar card system.
Twisting my mind
It can take quite some time to learn all the rules of Dungeon Twister. The game includes a series of lengthy tutorials, but they take hours. I don’t know if that’s par for the course for board games, but an easier learning curve would have been appreciated.
There are only two gameplay modes – against the computer or against another player online. The computer offers a decent challenge, but playing against another human is far more satisfying. It’s a pity that there’s no local coop, but I can see how hiding one player’s moves from another is nigh impossible with both players looking at the same screen. Still, some kind of offline two-player option should have been included.
Dungeon Twister has a certain charm to it. Your characters do a little dance when they score a point, and the first time I saw it I laughed out loud. The second time, not so much. The graphics are acceptable if not exceptional, but the sounds can grate on the nerves. The animations also lose their appeal after watching them for the umpteenth time. The option to skip them, at least for the computer, is sorely needed.
I didn’t hate my time with Dungeon Twister, but I didn’t fall in love with it either. I haven’t played many tabletop games, but the few I have seem fun because of the physical presence of other people in the room, something that the game lacks. Dungeon Twister is a great option for friends who own the game but are unable to meet up or those who prefer the company of a computer, but casual fans would be better off purchasing the physical version.
A faithful recreation of the board game experience without the need to setup or clean up.
The digitization leaves something to be desired, no local coop option.