Dungeon Raiders is an adventure game that promises a journey packed with magic, humor, and mayhem. Indeed, there is magic: you summon it by sliding your finger in an awkward manner not experienced since the dawn of the Nintendo DS’s stylus input. There is humor: you can’t help but laugh at the game’s bad writing and baffling jokes. And thanks to the loose controls and chunky character movement, Dungeon Raiders definitely delivers the mayhem.
Chapter one of Dungeon Raiders stars a bumbling wizard named Glandalf who carries a big stick and wears a loud shirt. Glandalf’s axe-swinging friend, Butcho, filled a job ad as an executioner for Count Dracula. When it turns out that Count Dracula isn’t the world’s best employer (he demands lots of night shifts), Glandalf resolves to bring him home and score him gainful employment. However, before he can find his muscle-bound pal, Glandalf needs to rescue another useful friend: an incompetent thief named Luigi, who has been kidnapped by a band of pirates and ‘the Giant Parrot who goes ‘qweek.”
Which way to the gym?
The story for Dungeon Raiders tries hard to be wacky, but sitting through it is like having to smile wearily at a friend who thinks that the road to hilarity is paved with references to pirates, ninjas, and monkeys. It doesn’t help that the writing is shoddy and thick with spelling mistakes.
But there’s no real sin in a bad story. Dungeon Raiders’ biggest problem is that its ghastly controls render it borderline unplayable. The game can be classified as an adventure title, and it takes more than a little inspiration from the top-down entries in the Legend of Zelda series. Puzzles must be solved, switches must be thrown, traps must be tiptoed around, and enemies must be slain. An on-screen D-pad controls Glandalf’s movements. He can run, he can walk, and he can creep, though the slightest slip of the thumb will turn a slow crawl into a breakneck sprint (which is a real problem in an environment riddled with traps). There is also some necessary jumping, a supremely frustrating exercise that is guaranteed to send Glandalf tumbling to his death more than once.
Here, sharkie sharkie sharkie.
Dungeon Raiders is admittedly an ambitious game with plenty of territory to explore, but its ambition is another stumbling block. At any point in the game, you have access to your control pad, jump button, map, pause button, and spell-casting trigger. Oftentimes, performing one function means you’re going to bump into another.
For instance, spell-casting is an important part of the game. To cast a spell, you hit the spell-casting button, and then ‘draw’ your spell using your finger. The spell-casting button is neighbors with the jump button, which means you’ll be doing a lot of hopping when you want to throw magic. Drawing a spell involves scribbling shapes on the screen after activating the magic button. Prepare to accidentally pause the game and/or bring up your map often.
Nothing against aged adventurers, but Glandalf sure moves like an old man. Dungeon Raiders’ stiff controls make the game about as fun as an episode of back pain.