Boasting 25 hours of simple, action gaming built around the driving desire to find and collect increasingly powerful weapons and armor, Dungeon Hunter's biggest surprise may be the platform it's on.
In Dungeon Hunter players take on the role of a prince, playing as mage, fighter or rogue, as he fights his way through dungeons and castles, woods and catacombs toward the throne usurped by his murderous wife.
Can a cell phone deliver the sort of experience most expect to find on a computer? Let's find out.
Colorful Weapons: The heart of Dungeon Hunter's addictive nature is its robust selection of weapons. The weapons include a variety of types and, much more importantly, a number of magical properties. As with games like Diablo and Borderlands, Dungeon Hunters color-codes the weapons. White means no magical properties, green one, blue two, purple three and finally gold four magical properties.
Fun Times Three: Gameloft seems to have gone out of their way to make sure that each of the game's three character classes play differently enough to warrant tackling the game three times over, a huge boon for a game like this.
Leveling: As your character gains experience he levels up, granting points that you can then assign to the character's four attributes. Level-ups also give you skill points for unlocking and boosting special attacks and spells. Those abilities include things like invisibility and summoning an animated sword to fight along side you.
Stat!: Beyond simple attribute stats, Dungeon Hunter also tracks your character's level, experience points, hit points, attacking rating and defense rating. There's more than enough here to give stat fans some fun stuff to dig into.
Graphics: While the game's character models and enemies suffer from slightly bland art direction, the graphics are detailed and smooth, never getting in the way of the often fast-paced and frenetic experience.
Length of Play: It took me about ten hours to play through Dungeon Hunter as a rogue and that was playing through just one of the three available classes. And now I'm playing through it again, this time as a mage. I'm surprised and delighted to find such a substantial and enjoyable game on the iPhone.
Controls: With one minor exception the controls in Dungeon Hunter are simple to understand and easy to use. And, despite tapping the game nearly constantly for all ten hours of gameplay, I rarely had a misfire or mix-up of targeting or movement.
Touchy Hotkeys: The game's controls are great, with one small exception: Dungeon Hunter's skill icons. These are the buttons you tap to activate your extra skills. The default loads them as a scrollable icon that you can shift through by swiping in either direction. Unfortunately, I often swiped when I meant to tap, causing me to use the wrong skill in the hectic battles. You can change the icons to all display on the screen at the same time, but then it feels a bit cluttered.
Art Design: Not a whole lot of imagination went into how the game looks and the creatures you take on. There are blobs of assorted colors, skeletons, bandits and other generic baddies. It would have been nice to see a more interesting palette of enemies.
Plot: Like the art direction, the plot feels a little too familiar for my taste. You're a prince out to right a wrong you accidentally wrought. Not much in the way of twists or surprises here. Next time it would be great to offer up a little substance in the way of storyline too.
This is the first time Kotaku has taken the time to give an iPhone game a full, ten-point review. There's a reason for that: Dungeon Hunter delivers a substantial and deep experience, one that offers up plenty of opportunity for more thoughtful analysis and pushes both this game and the platform to a higher level.
Dungeon Hunter is worth your time, your money, your attention. It is the sort of game we all imagined might exist on a platform so easy to carry around in our pockets. Sure there are faults, but they're all superficial. With a bit more attention spent on art and story Dungeon Hunter could be the sort of game that better establishes the iPod Touch and iPhone as a serious competitor for the PSPgo and DSi.
Dungeon Hunter was developed and published by Gameloft for the iPhone and iPod Touch on Sept. 14. Retails for $6.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the campaign as a rogue. Completed all side quests and made it to level 40.
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