Have you ever been frustrated because a really fun (or potentially fun) game is marred by one feature? It’s even worse when that feature is critical to game play. Unfortunately, Dungeon Run is just such a game. The game is a nice variation of a cool concept. It looks good, sounds good, and has a nice assortment of levels to keep you busy for a while. Sadly, the controls will make sure that you stay busy on some levels a lot more than you need to. I hope they revisit the controls some day, because it definitely makes the difference between a mediocre and really good game in this case.
In Dungeon Run you play a leprechaun, and it’s your task to get back all the pots of gold. The bad thing is that these pots aren’t at the ends of rainbows. Instead, they’re stashed in some nasty underground dungeon and guarded by treacherous traps and fiendish ghouls. You have to outwit, outsmart, or in the worst case scenario outrun all the hazards, snatch up all the gold, and make it to the exit of each of 25 levels. It’s not going to be easy, but fortunately you have a little bit of luck on your side, as once you’ve completed a level you don’t have to repeat that level should you die on the next one. You get three lives to complete a level, after which you’ll be given the option to retry the level or go back to the map to try a different one.
When you select a level you’ll be given the option to play the level in casual or hardcore mode. I haven’t tried hardcore yet, and you’ll understand why when I talk about the controls. At least it’s there for those who think the game is too easy on casual. Once you’ve picked a difficulty you’ll need to get to the level’s exit, and there are three different ways to go about it. In the first and second method all of the pots of gold will be visible, but in one of the modes you’ll have a certain amount of time to reach the exit. Either way you’ll have to pick up all the gold in order for the exit to open. The third variation is that each pot of gold becomes visible only when you’ve picked up the previous one. You still need to get them all to get out, however. Along the way boulders will try and crush you, skeletons and orcs and other things will attempt to wipe you out, and abandoned mine carts will want to run you over. On rare occasions there will be items like speed boosts to help you along the way, but those don’t come very often.
The control scheme is at the same time the most interesting and the most frustrating part of the game. You can use either touch or tilt to control the game, and there are sensitivity sliders for both. What’s interesting is that you aren’t actually controlling your character, but rather you are tilting the playing field, as it were. In effect you are controlling anything that can move all at once, because whenever you tilt the board not only do you move, but all monsters and boulders move as well. The only things that move independently are the mine carts, and you simply have to stay out of their way as you move your leprechaun through the dungeon.
The first problem is that even with the ability to adjust the sensitivity, the controls never really seem as tight as they need to be. Either you character is real sluggish or he moves all over the place without much control. The other issue is that it’s hard to figure out where the central point of gravity is in relation to tilting the board, especially when using tilt mode. Sometimes it seems like no matter how I tilt the device I can’t get the leprechaun to move in a certain direction. It also doesn’t help that the axis for moving seems to be diagonal instead of North / South and East / West. All in all I just found the controls to be confusing and unforgiving, even when I “got used to” them.
The game looks really good. The models are well rendered, and when you’re presented with a close up on key sequences (being attacked or escaping the level) you can see the nice details that went into the characters. The backgrounds are also well drawn. Unfortunately, on the close-ups you can see where some of the cavern details are simply part of the wall textures, and they tend to look flat. Overall everything looks nice, and for those worried about the theme, the only thing that’s really “St. Patrick’s Day” is the leprechaun and the pots of gold. I will say that I’m running a 2nd gen iPod Touch, and there are times that the game does get a bit sluggish and almost seems like it has locked up.
The sound effects are pretty decent, and actually sound somewhat like they were ripped from the audio track of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. I especially like the sound of defeat when you get run over or caught by a monster. The music is good, and really suits the game. It’s light and fun and really augments the atmosphere that the game should have.
I’ve always been fascinated with the type of puzzle game where you control most of the players, and this could be one of the best that exists on the iPhone. The graphics are great, the music is good, and the puzzles are nicely laid out. The reality, however, is that the controls really make the quality of the game suffer. It’s one thing to lose because you don’t time something right or get too cocky. It’s another thing to continually die because the game just doesn’t quite want to move the way you tell it to. It’s a shame, because this is one gold mining expedition that could be worth it.
Overall Score: 6/10
App Store Link