148Apps Network Post
Developer: BanzaiTokyo
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★½☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

I wouldn’t say I was a huge chess geek as a kid, but I did go to my school’s chess club. And I was in the chess team. You know, during what downtime I had from riding my motorcycle and getting all the ladies. The reason I bring up my harrowing childhood chess is because Banzai Dice reminds me how a game with simple mechanics but underlying depth can be difficult to grasp if there’s nobody around to help with the more advanced stuff.

While the principle applies, it’s of course an unfair comparison; chess has more complicated mechanics and obviously far more depth, nor is Banzai Dice aspiring to be like it. I was reminded of chess because it’s a game I learned the mechanics of by watching it be played, and that’s how Banzai Dice got me to learn its essentials thanks to the gameplay animation on its title screen. It’s essentially a Match-4 game, but with dice sides for different symbols. The grid starts empty, and each turn I add a die to one of five columns. If I add a die to a column, it goes beneath any dice already there rather than on top. As for the Match-4 stuff, ‘rows’ don’t have to be straight, they can just be adjacent blocks. These rows must be four matching sides (4, 4, 4, 4) or a straight (2, 3, 4, 5) in order. Points are awarded for making rows, with bonus combo points for making multiple rows at once. Sure, it’s a clever enough mechanic. Simple, unassuming, and clearly it belies some depth.

Unfortunately, Banzai Dice comes unstuck because it fails to build on that. Not only does it expect the player to do all the work in discovering the advanced stuff, but it provides zero incentive for doing so. There are two modes, one with a set limit of turns and the other a timed one, but there’s no progress within these modes. There are no ‘special’ dice, no extras to unlock (beyond some token achievements), no twists on the mechanics, and no global leaderboards to post scores to. These aren’t necessities by any means, but if a game’s going to shirk them then the underlying mechanics need to be far more clever than Match-4 with dice.

There isn’t nearly enough there in Banzai Dice as it is, and that’s a shame because it does feel like there’s an interesting, intelligent game that could be seriously addictive. It’s just that it’s hiding beneath a plain offering that seems to believe what’s there is enough. If you can get into the underlying strategy then clearly it is, but the game doesn’t make enough effort to help me or make me want to.

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