|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Mistwalker/Artoon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: RATING||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
As a dungeon crawling enthusiast, I was very excited to try Away: Shuffle Dungeon. Mistwalker has produced some real gems in the RPG department on the Xbox 360, and I was excited to see what they would do with this sub-genre. However, Away: Shuffle Dungeon was a little bit of a disappointing first effort. While the production value is definitely solid, the main problem with this title is that it tries too hard to move the dungeon crawling genre away from its Rogue roots, which leaves the game feeling more than a little hollow.
The story in Away: Shuffle Dungeon is fairly standard and revolves around a young boy, aptly named Sword, whose entire village has been carried away to another dimension by the phenomenon known only as "Away." Sword must rescue each villager in the town by venturing into Shuffle Dungeons, which feature rotating rooms with various switches and traps and a boss at the end. After successfully going through the dungeon forwards, your hero must go through the same dungeon backwards to get back home.
For the most part, the structure of the game is exactly the same as you'd find in any other dungeon crawler. There is a 3D overworld, which you can roam around to discover and unlock new dungeons. Once you enter a dungeon, the action shifts to a 2D style directly comparable to any other dungeon you've ever seen.
However, this is where the similarities end. Instead of having a grid-based battle system that adheres to a strict turn system, Away: Shuffle Dungeon employs a very active battle system where you have to hack-n'-slash your way through enemies. This title also uses a very intricate switch system that makes every level like a complex puzzle instead of the usual strategic exercise.
Even though these changes are quite significant, the most interesting new facet of Away: Shuffle Dungeon is the dungeon level design. Each dungeon consists of six to eight different "rooms" that alternate every ten seconds. The rooms are divided between the top and bottom screens, so you will have to continue jumping between the two screens to flip switches and open doors in order to gain access to the corresponding room on the opposite screen. One thing that dungeon fans should know is that these rooms are not randomly generated like in traditional dungeon crawlers, but instead rely on being generated in a sequential pattern. The main gameplay mechanic will rely on your ability to memorize the different rooms and hit the right switches in order to gain access to the adjacent room.
Although this title really tries to make strides to "progress" the dungeon crawling genre, I can't say that these changes have worked especially well. Although the game looks like a typical dungeon-based title, the gameplay has undergone so many changes that it feels more like an action adventure title. There is no strategic element, no randomly generated rooms, and the battle system feels hollow. Even if we take this game as an action title that just borrows elements from the dungeon crawling genre, it still falls a little flat, because of the repetitive dungeon-based level design.
To its credit, however, Away: Shuffle Dungeon does play very well in small doses, and the puzzle nature of the game will definitely find favor with more casual players. The game does not have harsh penalties for dying in a dungeon and actually has several checkpoints within each dungeon, which makes this title even more conducive to those who are unfamiliar with the traditional format of the dungeon crawler.