|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Global A Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: XSEED Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 19, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground is an original title from Global A Entertainment and XSEED Games. The title takes elements from several genres and has created a unique and eclectic experience. The game is fairly well-made and interesting. You will be challenged to design a dungeon complex so intricate that the monsters terrorizing the community will flock to your trap like a bear to honey. If you do so successfully, you will not only save the town, but be considered an expert dungeon architect.
Becoming a dungeon architect is evidently a very difficult thing to do, and so your character takes up the challenge presented by the backwater kingdom to improve his experience and gain notoriety. Besides designing the dungeon, you will also be tasked with clearing out the complex to keep the villagers safe. Essentially, this is an RPG/Dungeon crawler where you are in control of the dungeon's design. You will have tools at your disposal to both create the dungeon and do away with its inhabitants.
At first glance, this seemed like the perfect handheld game for me. I am a self-proclaimed RPG master and dungeon aficionado. I am eager and open to all role playing games. Unfortunately, the game doesn't quite live up to its potential. Don't get me wrong. This is a pretty good game. There is a lot of fun to be had, and the gameplay is addictive. The problem lies in the game's simplicity and its repetitiveness. The mixing of the various genres is a good idea, but their implementation in the game is a bit crude and monotonous. The building of dungeons for role players is almost sacred. Dungeon Maker will allow you to build them, but the tools at your disposal are unsophisticated. You will have a set of materials at your disposal that you can purchase from the build master in town. He and his assistant will provide you with corridors, rooms, and wall textures that will make your dungeon feel like home to the various monsters. You will need to design the dungeon according to which monsters you are trying to attract. For example, if you need to slay some undead, don't expect them to inhabit a chapel. If you want to obtain some loot, make sure you build rooms far away from the entrance. If you want to attract an epic creature, you'll need to make a large room at the end of a winding corridor at the edge of your complex. In the beginning of the game, you will have few options at your disposal, and you will have to settle for battling against bats. As you progress through the game, you will have more options at your disposal, but by that time you've already compromised your setting for something less than epic. It is easy to lay down new tiles and textures. In fact, it's almost too easy. Greater complexity in the building of the dungeon would have made for a greater challenge. If you had to clear out the section of dungeon you wanted to add on to while protecting and leading townsfolk to the build site, it would have been more gratifying. As it stands, all you have to do is make it to the desired area, wave your hands, and poof, the new section is complete.
Additionally, the RPG elements are rudimentary. This is basically a button masher in the mold of Untold Legends. The humdrum battles are boring and repetitive. This is especially the case as the game goes on. You will fight more or less the same monsters over and over again in the same sections of the dungeon. When your dungeon becomes truly large, this will feel more like a chore rather than quest. Your character will acquire new weapons and spells to aid you in your mission. These are useful tools, but they essentially all feel the same. Again, the fighting is really just a hack-n-slash. It seems like the developers settled for mediocrity, much like the gamer has had to, due to a lack of tools and resources at their disposal. I hope this title does well enough to merit a sequel because there is a great game there somewhere. All it needs is a revision and a bit more time and money devoted to it.
There is a unique system in place for leveling up. You will return to the town every evening, speak to key townsfolk, acquire your supplies for the next day, and take your daily meal. This meal is what augments your abilities and statistics. Light meals that require simple ingredients will only marginally boost your attributes. Hearty meals produced from exotic ingredients, especially those acquired in your dungeon, will greatly increase specific attributes. You won't have to worry about healing yourself after leaving the dungeon because a good night's sleep will heal you fully and restore all of your magic points. Additionally, there are roots that you will collect throughout the game that will boost your character's abilities. All you have to do is feed them parts of fallen baddies to keep them happy. I liked this system of leveling. It is original and simple to master.