App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Puzzle/RPG hybrids have become somewhat of a popular genre. Of course, it seems like almost every category of game is trying to shoehorn some kind of RPG elements into their mechanics these days, but the level-building and loot-grinding really goes well with shape-matching and block-clearing. Sort of like peanut butter and chocolate. Riding this delicious, delicious wave is The Dungeon Saga: a similar kind of hybrid that does scratch the itch, but doesn't make it go away completely.
It's impossible to play or even look at The Dungeon Saga without thinking about Dungeon Raid, so I won't try to skirt the issue. The two games are indeed very similar, but The Dungeon Saga offers up a simpler and more streamlined experience. Whether or not "simpler" also means "better" depends on the player, but I think there's more than enough room on the App Store for both so I won't waste any more time talking about which trumps which.
One thing that really impressed me about The Dungeon Saga was the intro. The wordless, cartoony video conveyed just enough story, along with plenty of humor, to draw me right in. Choosing a class (Warrior or Wizard) and a difficulty (Easy, Normal or a skull) took mere seconds and then it was time to start dungeoneering. Both classes have access to their own individual skill sets, along with other more obvious differences, which make them feel distinct. Playing through as each character at least once is pretty much a given. Each of the monster hang-outs is depicted as a winding (but still linear) map, with encounters and other obstacles (and treasures) shown along the preset path. Running into an enemy will trigger a fight, and from there it's all about dragging a finger across groupings of the same icon in order to smite, heal and defend.
As smooth as the experience is, The Dungeon Saga still runs into one pitfall: accuracy. The icons on the puzzle board are rather small, which makes for more than a few occasions where I didn't hit all the icons I'd wanted to. Another issue, or rather nagging complaint, is that the existence of levels (as in stages) seems pointless. There is no control whatsoever over the movement of the character, save that they move forward when the screen is tapped. They can't go in any other direction but straight ahead, and there are never any branching paths. This linearity to the pacing is fine, but creating the illusion of choice seems like a waste.
The Dungeon Saga is, for the most part, the definitive puzzle RPG for the casual gamer. It eschews conventions like multiple complex classes and large amounts of weapons and instead boils just about everything down to simple upgrades. Players searching for a Roguelike with puzzle combat won't find what they're looking for here, but that doesn't mean they won't still have fun.