Brave Dwarves Review

Isn’t the politically correct term “little people”?

The fantasy definition of dwarf is probably what the makers of Brave Dwarves had in mind when they developed the iPhone port of the old-school shareware title. Unambitious in its concept, the title asks very little of its players on its way to being a rather mundane and tedious platformer.

Collect the dots…. over and over again.

Basic gameplay breaks down the platforming to its Super Mario Bros. roots. Run around a 2D level while collecting various items–diamonds, potions, keys, etc.–jumping and killing monsters along the way. The game boasts an incredible roster of 100 levels spread out over six maps. Each successive level is unlocked after finding the three keys to the dungeon door.

Combat is divided up into two different dwarves: A warrior and a wizard. They are identical in gameplay, with only slight differences in weapons. The wizard fires spells from his hands while the warrior fires projectiles out of his axe. To the game’s credit, it does feature a varied selection of projectile types, from the standard fireball to an Indiana Jones-style boulder, which all use collected diamonds as ammunition.

But unfortunately, the diversity of weapons doesn’t really serve as anything more than eye candy. With the level design being relatively ordinary, and monsters on the easy side, a straightforward approach of just blasting a worm with a fireball is the most reliable solution.

The combination of repetitive level design and the tedium of back-to-back-to-back fetch quests does take its toll. By having so many levels, the game seems more like an exercise in patience than an interesting platforming experience, especially since the game demands so little of its players in terms of thought, creativity or problem solving.

How many times can you run around a level, collecting diamonds and keys, before you get bored? Our cap was at about four levels, but we pressed on. It doesn’t get any better, or all that different, the further you get. It’s too unambitious to really provide much motivation to keep pressing on.

Let them eat cake!

That said, the game doesn’t really do anything badly. Controls work well in both the accelerometer mode and with standard touch buttons. There’s a bit of a break-in period with the accelerometer as you get used to tilting and swipe-to-jump/climb mechanic, but it feels quite natural after the first few levels. The touch buttons can feel a little cramped, but again, the game isn’t all that difficult that the controls will get you killed.

But on the flip side, the game doesn’t really do anything all that great either. There’s no real, “Aha!” or “That’s cool!” moment in the game. Sure, the boss battles are a nice touch, but we seriously doubt anyone will have the patience or the self-hatred to push through 20 levels of repetition and tedium to get to even the first boss. The old-school graphics are about what you would expect from a shareware port.

With so many developers these days pushing the envelope with platformers like Sway or Glyder, it’s hard to justify purchasing a platformer as basic and average as Brave Dwarves. If you really want a port with old-school graphics, hell, Sonic the Hedgehog just came out, and that at least offers up some genuine nostalgia. Pass on this one.

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