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Do you like Match-Three games? Do you like RPGs? How about having a heart-attack while playing a game? If you answered yes to all three questions, you’re ready to play Dungeon Hearts – and perhaps need to question just how desperat you are for heart failure. Dungeon Hearts is a match-3 game that, when compared to other games of its ilk, plays out like a cracked-out version. It’s fast, furious, even infuriating, but it’s still a moderately enjoyable take on the genre.
Its core is simple enough – you have a team of four adventurers, following the classic archetypes of mage, archer, fighter, etc. who do battle with bad guys through the paradigms of a match-three game. They all stand in a line on the left side of the screen, laid out like the frets in a guitar hero game, and each character has special power-ups that you can use as the game plays out.
When the action starts, colored tiles known as runes start moving across the screen to assail your party, with a monster in the middle of it all. Your job is to match existing three groups of runes, or create a group of three by moving runes around – which cause your party members to launch attacks on the monster. Match three green runes and your green character attacks; match three red and your red guy attacks. You get the idea. Special runes also appear, letting you dole out more damage and so forth. It’s a pretty straightforward mechanic, but it plays out so fast that you’ll often want to just give up, as later monsters make it feel like there’s no way to keep up.
When a battle completes, you get another mini-game that has you matching level-up runes in an attempt to increase the power of your characters. It’s here where a huge problem with Dungeon Hearts lies. Rather than just say “Hey, you used your archer a lot, let’s make him level up”, you’re forced into playing a ridiculously fast-paced tile matching game to collect enough runes to level up. ‘Wait, didn’t I already earn XP to level up?’ you ask. ‘Now I have to play more of this maddeningly fast-paced game to earn that level up?’ you continue to question. Yeah, good luck with that… And, FYI, if you don’t succeed at leveling up, you might just want to start over, as you won’t be powerful enough to do diddly-squat in later levels.
While simple enough for a few levels Dungeon Hearts becomes ridiculously overly complex as it goes on, and the difficulty balance goes from “fast paced and challenging” to “burn in hell, I never want to play this again.” The early game is just tile matching, and defending yourself by blocking the enemy’s tile matches. Soon enough though, advanced runes appear, giving the enemy extra armor, or poisoning members of your team. It goes from match-three fun to a mental juggling act with disconcerting expediency.
If it were slowed down, Dungeon Hearts could be a great, relaxing match-three title. As it stands, however, it’s a brutally fast paced game with wildly unbalanced difficulty and a thin RPG system. I wouldn’t recommend it on PC, as mouse control is sketchy at best, and often, it’s just too fast to play with a mouse. Although I imagine it’s probably better on a tablet.
If you’re looking to try something a little different in the Match-Three genre, and you’ve got three bucks burning a hole in your pocket, why not? It’s a pretty fun little game in the early stages. With some balancing and speed adjustments, it could be a heck of a lot better, though.
Audio/Visual – 3/5: Cute cartoony graphics and a very good soundtrack.
Gameplay – 3/5: Interesting ideas for new matching mechanics, but too fast to enjoy.
Innovation – 2/5: A few new ideas in the match-three genre, but nothing truly amazing.
Value – 3/5: For $3, you could do a lot worse
Final Score: 3/5
– Robofighter reviewed Dungeon Hearts on PC -