NINTENDO DS REVIEW: TAO'S ADVENTURE: CURSE OF THE DEMON SEAL

Tao's Adventure is not much of an adventure. It borrows heavily from classic RPGs but never attains classic status itself. At best, it's a utility RPG that won't appeal to a wide variety of gamers. by Cass Andrusiak

April 4, 2006 - Tao's Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal is not about some crazed, ball-bouncing mammal from Marine Land that is possessed by the devil. We're talking about the kind of seal you use to keep something closed. Like the plastic seal on this game.

First of all, the gameplay is not at all exciting. The battles, moves and abilities are repetitious and redundant. In an attempt to make use of the touch screen, I think the developers went too far by forcing you to use it for virtually every situation. You can play the entire game without using any buttons although you do have the option of using the D-pad to move your character. The touch screen features are just too slow and awkward. You have to access menus, wait for them to load, read through your options, make a selection and then wait for it to be executed. It's way too drawn out.

And speaking of drawn out, magical spells have to be literally be drawn with the stylus. You have to draw magical symbols to unleash your spell attacks on the enemy. What's more, you have to memorize these symbols. There are 40 in all. If you forget some of them, and you will, you will have to look them up in the spell book. Talk about lost momentum.

Most of the spells are useless, especially the ones in the first half of the game. They are not very effective and they will cost you points to use. I think that drawing of symbols is a good idea, (although this is not the first game to utilize this technique) but there should be some kind of reward in terms of a devastating attack. Instead it just feels like a novelty. Granted, the magical spells become more powerful later in the game as you level-up - if you make it that far.

In a fantasyland, far, far away, is the town of Mondominio. It's a popular spot for egg hunters. Monster egg hunters that is. There is a huge tower in the town that is filled with monsters. Fortunately these monsters are locked in the tower by a seal. Remember the seal? I talked about it four paragraphs ago. The hunters find monster eggs in the tower and sell them back in town. It was a good business. But one day during a violent thunderstorm, the demon tower was hit by lighting which destroyed the seal, allowing monsters to escape and terrorize the community.

Reaching the island of Bente, one powerful monster had turned the inhabitants to stone. All, except for a young warrior named Tao - and useless elders. After consulting with the elders, Tao learns that he must enter into the demon tower and retrieve a special monster egg that will reverse the evil spell and free his friends and family.

Entering the demon tower, you will do battle with different monster on each floor level. You can fight them with magic or weapons. The sword is the weapon of choice and it's the most convenient and satisfying combat tool, (think Castlevania) but it soon becomes tiring if that's all you use. The magic may be a hassle but at least it breaks up the monotony. The monsters get progressively harder as you rise from floor to floor. Every five levels or so you will have to battle a boss.

The purpose of entering the demon tower in the first place is to find monster eggs, especially the one that will bring your clan back to life, but you know that you won't find that egg until the end of the game. In the meantime you will find eggs that you must take back to the town to get them evaluated. Then you take them back to the demon tower to hatch them. The resulting monsters are then yours to control. They will fight alongside of you, offering you some extra backup. But the most boldest and blatant feature of the gameplay is that you can train these monsters and have them fight other monsters in an arena just like in Pokemon. The battles last for a few minutes and use the typical rock/paper/scissors formula for each of the attacks. These battles can be played against the AI or with another human player. You can even trade monsters with other players. Collect 'em all kids…

Dungeon crawling makes up a large part of the gameplay. You can amass an assortment of goodies from visiting these dungeons but the going is slow thanks to the turn-based style of gameplay. You have some freedom when there are no monsters around but it doesn't take long before you have a random encounter on your hands and things grind to a crawl. Everything that you do, such as make a move, cast a spell, attack or defend, requires one turn. After each turn, the monster takes its turn and so on… and so on.. and so on…

Tao's Adventure is not a bad looking game. The monsters are varied as are the different levels of the demon tower. It's the gameplay that lacks variation. It's just a Frankenstein game composed of a conglomerate of genres and popular RPG elements. It also doesn't help that the controls are awkward and at times fails to register your commands.

For best results, keep the seal on this game unopened so as not to release the demon of boredom - and to facilitate a much easier exchange or refund at the store where it was accidentally purchased.

By Cass Andrusiak
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Tao's Adventure: Curse Of The Demon Seal (DS)
3.0
Graphics
Looks like a generic version of every decent RPG that you've ever played...
2.2
Control
Instead of a unique control system, we wind up with a geek control system. The only thing I want to touch is the "Off" button.
2.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundscape is like a reverse desert mirage; even when sound is being transmitted your mind will be tricked into thinking you're actually hearing nothing.
3.8
Play Value
This games lasts so long that once you complete it, you will have lived several virtual lifestyles.
2.5
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Released: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cass

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best