Dungeon Explorer on the PSP, from developers Hudson Soft, is an action role playing game involving swords, sorcery and monsters. Checking out Hudson Softs website before writing this, I found that this is actually a sequel to a popular 1989 PC game of the same name and gameplay style.
The gameplay is a typical single button bashing, hack and slash affair. No matter which class you choose to play and whether you use swords, bows or magic in combat, itâ€˜s the same single button attack. When choosing your class, you are afforded a limited choice of customization options, such as name, race, gender, hair and clothing colours. Although these are limited options, they still offer more than enough choice to give your character a little originality. The game itself has a pretty simple story but, with no speech within the game, it is reliant on the subtitles. I do not mind reading subtitles in a game, but for some reason in this one they seem long winded and a little poorly written. The simple story plot is explained in an extremely long and overly complicated way. Itâ€™s not that the story is terrible, it is a basic monster invading the peaceful lands and the hero must battle them to protect those living there, but it just seems that the telling of this simple story has been made overly complicated. This makes for a lot of needless reading for a story that could probably be conveyed in half the time.
The actual game side is pretty fun, barring one or two small things, and involves you picking up quests from an adventurers guild. The quests come in two different forms. General quests involve you carrying out simple tasks, like escorting residents of the town to certain places while fighting off hordes of monsters and ensuring your companion survives. Special quests are basically the same thing but are also used to continue the main storyline. This is where the games main problem arises. Although the action side of the game is fun, more about which in a moment, the small problem is the repetitive levels. Unfortunately I do not mean levels that look similar to the last. What I mean is that you will find yourself playing through the exact same levels, fighting the exact same monsters numerous times under the guise of different quests. Escort this person, test this armour or learn to use such and such a skill. All of these and more will see you walk along the same forest road to the same dungeon entrance and through said dungeon fighting the same creatures in exactly the same place each time, no matter how high a level your character is. You have to wait patiently for things to increase in difficulty. No matter how well your game plays, having the player go through the same stage, fifteen to twenty times in a row, can become pretty tedious.
The main action sections of the game would probably be a lot more fun, if it were not for the aforementioned repetitive nature of the levels. The combat, no matter which class you chose to play, is more or less the same. A single button tapping affair. Moving your character towards the enemy with the analogue nub and tapping the attack button repeatedly to strike, fire or cast. Potions for healing and mana are assigned to other button presses, along with a few magic attacks. The controls are easy to get the hang of and lead to an easy to use combat system. The role playing elements come from the fact that, as you kill the monsters, you are continuously earning experience and levelling up your character. This allows you to raise attributes as you see fit. This can, however, lead to the point that you become so powerful you can run through the enemies without much trouble, as I did at around level 10.This means that you can more or less rush through the dungeons and, as you find yourself battling the same monsters for the fifteenth time in a row, you realize it has become a bit of a laborious task.
You are, of course, rewarded with gold for completing the quests. You can spend this on improving your armour and weapons, further improving your characterâ€™s combat skills. Although the role playing side of things, such as gaining experience, levelling up and equipment upgrades, are well done, coupled with the fun hack and slash combat system, it is not quite enough to save the game from the repetitive nature of the actual dungeon explorations. The developers could so easily have changed this from a so-so game to an enjoyable romp, solely by adding more variety and dungeons.
On the plus side of things, the games graphics and sound do a reasonable job and, although far from being stunning on either front for a PSP title, the scenery, characters and monsters are all well represented. The same can be said for the sound. The music is fitting for the setting of the game, as are the sounds of the combat and magic.
So basically, what you can expect from Dungeon Explorer is a decent looking, simple yet fun, sword and sorcery action game with a few role playing game elements thrown in. But, sadly, these few good points are not quite enough to make up for the repetitive nature of the gameplay, quests and dungeons. The fights that begin as fairly challenging, do not improve in difficulty as you yourself level up. This means that you eventually find yourself trudging through quests and wading through creatures that you can kill in two or three seconds. Thatâ€™s not to say that itâ€™s a terrible game, and fans of the original PC Dungeon Explorer will probably get a kick out of this version, purely for nostalgic reasons. Other than that, what you have is a pretty mediocre game without much on offer to keep the average gamer occupied for any great length of time.
Dungeon Explorer from Hudson Soft is available to download for PSP from the PSN Store for Â£8.69