Developer: Peter M Whalen
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.05
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

We’re taught early in life that it’s not a good idea to judge a book by its cover. It’s excellent advice; if we rated everything on first impressions, we’d miss out on a lot of movies, games, and (of course) literature that really excel once it warms up. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to blurt “Oh God, what is up with these graphics” upon first seeing Peter M Whalen’s Dream Quest. Aside from some competent character portraits and monster designs, the game’s visuals consist of literal stick figures obviously made in MS Paint.

dreamquest_02Dream Quest is painful to look at in this age of beautifully-crafted card battling games – but bypassing it because of its crude graphics means turning away from one of the most creative and fun offerings in the genre. Granted, it isn’t strictly a card battling game. It’s also a Roguelike – meaning landscapes and enemy placement shifts from game to game. Each map is dotted with monsters, and when the player interacts with a beastie, they’re pulled into Dream Quest‘s battle mode.

Battle mode is where the cards come into play. Players and monsters take turns drawing cards, some of which can be used freely, and others that require a “turn” (which is measured by an hourglass next to the player’s profile). Some cards attack, while others shore up defenses, heal, cause status ailments, or sling magic that requires mana.

There are several classes to play as, each of which brings its own strengths to the table. Thieves can find hidden treasure, priests can find monsters before the player blunders into them, and warriors can knock down walls.

dreamquest_05Dream Quest is governed by simple rules that are easy to learn, but players can still count on dying at least once before they descend too far into the labyrinth. That’s alright: even death brings rewards. Meeting achievements results in permanent upgrades like characters starting out with more health, more money, or better cards. It’s a slow climb to competence, but there’s definitely a sense of progress that helps tie the game together.

Despite its crude graphics, Dream Quest is a hoot. The combination of Roguelike and deck-building elements mesh perfectly. And hey, even though we’ve all learned that first impressions don’t mean everything, maybe someday we’ll see a version of the game that includes upgraded graphics.

Sorry – it’s just hard to take an MS Paint sword seriously.

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