3D Dot Game Heroes: review

  • Format: PS3
  • Unleashed: 14th May (EU), 11th May (US)
  • Publisher: SouthPeak Games (EU), Atlus (US)
  • Developer: From Software/Silicon Studio
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.3ddotgameheroes.eu/

The king of a 2D kingdom turns it into a 3D kingdom, hoping to increase its popularity. Lots of monsters appear, an ancient evil is suspected to have reared its head once again, and a hero – you, of course – appears to set things right. Cue a game armed with charming and refreshingly retro art that parodies and celebrates old skool RPGS in equal measure.

Ah yes, that art style. In keeping with the plot a world of pixels has been dragged into the third dimension; character and scenery designs are appropriately blocky and simple, and everything is unashamedly colourful. It looks as though a very talented child has constructed a fantasy world from Lego. Tiny little blocks are spilled when you deal damage or destroy something, which is a nice little touch (and may well cause women to say ‘aaah’).

There’s an impressive range of characters to choose from (including a small dog, a bank manager, and Santa. We kid you not), but most people will want to take advantage of the character creator. You can fiddle about with one of the existing templates or, if you’re feeling confident, create your own entirely from scratch. That’s what we did and, after hours of hard but rewarding toil, came up with a passable – and possibly copyright infringing – version of a well known U bend technician.

No, his name is David.

Who or what you choose as your avatar makes no difference to gameplay, however. Sticking as it does to the traditions of classic RPGs (especially the Zelda series) you’ll be wandering round talking to NPCs, buying items from merchants, walking into people’s houses unannounced, and blowing holes in suspiciously cracked walls. Plus, of course, killing lots of monsters. The aforementioned merchants are joined here by blacksmiths, who will upgrade your sword – for a price. The main upgrades are strength, length and width (which has led, and will lead, to plenty of double entendres from lazy journalists).

There are several swords to be found and earned in the game, all with different attributes, and each can be inflated to near screen – filling size (which only takes effect when your character is at full health); but combat ultimately consists of hitting ‘X’ to swing your sword until whatever’s in front of you isn’t there any more, with the occasional bit of blocking with your shield. You’ll pick up mostly Zelda influenced secondary weapons and items such as bombs and a boomerang, but most enemies will die at the blocky point of your sword of choice. So yes combat is simple, perhaps overly so. This is, however, blessedly easy to forgive.

If the art style is the aspect of the game to most immediately sidle up to you and whisper sweet nothings in your proverbial ear, the script follows very quickly. This is a game that very rarely takes itself seriously, and is all the better for it. It’s stuffed full of nods and winks to subjects including the RPG genre, the game’s developer (and their most recent RPG Demon’s Souls), Zelda, long standing gaming traditions, and even – in one unexpected instance – sexual intercourse. Jokes pepper the game from start to finish, and you know what? They all work.

A chicken? I have a sword... lots of Zelda references... hmm, I wonder...

Though it looks and plays like an old skool RPG to an extent, gameplay has been sprinkled with 21st century fairy dust in much the same way as the graphics. There are no autosaves, but you can save from the pause menu whenever you want. When you next load your save, and whenever you die, you reappear at the nearest ‘revival point’ with all your items and most of your progress (unlocked doors, previously conducted conversations, etc.) intact. You have infinite lives, so never need lose your hard work in the game unless you forget to save. Or if, like us, you suffer a power cut just after completing an entire dungeon. Sob.

There are seven dungeons in the game (varying from ‘call that a dungeon?’ to ‘I need a week off work to finish this one’) and, with very few NPCs, are the ‘serious’ areas of 3D Dot Game Heroes. They’re fairly simple by and large, and work as you’d expect from a game that’s essentially a love letter to the genre – cramped areas with aggressive enemies, puzzles, and traps. It’s very much its own game though, and one that you’ll enjoy playing. This is in no small part thanks to the bosses, all of whom have been designed just as lovingly as the rest of the game; though the main appeal of the first boss is that it seems to be a take on the old mobile phone game Snake…

You’ll be breezing through it all, though thoroughly enjoying yourself, until you get about two thirds of the way through the story. It is at this point that the developers unwisely decide to use cheap tricks to artificially lengthen the experience. One dungeon is essentially one big puzzle that resets itself whenever you die or load a save; there’s a fairly brief, though map – wide, wild goose chase; the strongest enemies will suddenly bunch themselves together in rooms; and the final dungeon is the biggest (which is fair enough) but you may find yourself retracing your steps here more than anywhere else in the game, thanks to stingy distribution of internal warp points.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to dislike this game. The fresh art style and sparkling script is a winning combination and gameplay, whilst intentionally familiar, is not only solid – but enjoyable. Your first playthrough will take anything from 12 – 25 hours depending on skill and sidequests, and a second playthrough is tempted via the unlocked ‘From Mode’ difficulty or ‘New Game +’. There’s also the mysterious ‘Spelunker’ mode to find out about…

Were it not for the blips mentioned above, this would be an essential purchase. As it is, we certainly promise that if you give it a go you won’t be disappointed.

Not quite, sorry.

8/10

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value.

He doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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