Doodle Hex DS
Pokemon started off a whole new trend in gaming, as well as a premise for countless cartoon shows, that there are these leagues, or associations, that battle each other using all sorts of methods. Pokemon started it all off with monsters, but we’ve seen countless imitators using the likes of card games, spinning tops, and god knows what else. Doodle Hex takes the same premise and gives it a magical twist, this time you’ll find yourself battling it out by casting runes, which you draw yourself.
You’ll start off the game’s main single player mode as a student at the college of runes, the most magical school in the whole universe according to the storyline. You get a choice of students to play as and unsurprisingly these are all over the top anime style characters. There are ten students to start with, with four to be unlocked, but in all honesty it doesn’t make a jot of difference which one you play as. The storyline itself has very little bearing on the gameplay for that matter and seems to be just filler to pad things out a bit. So, once you start off you’re treated to a series of cutscenes that depict a boring day at school before you are introduced to the schools ghost, Kalamazoo, who initiates you in to the ways of battling with your new found knowledge of runes. After a few basic battles to get to grips with the different types of runes you are off in a tournament against other pupils and the schools teachers in an attempt to win the highly coveted one wish rune. And there you have it, the game’s storyline, which is nothing more than a nicely depicted excuse for a series of battles.
So, down to the actual gameplay, you’d think with all these over the top characters throwing magic around that you’d get something graphically quite impressive, right? Wrong, as you can see from the screen shots the actual gameplay is quite basic looking, you get a circular play area where you draw your runes in the middle and they travel around the outside anticlockwise from your character at the bottom to your opponent at the top. Which runes you can cast are dictated by how far through the game you are, winning battles will often give you a new rune, your rune casting abilities are also limited by how much mana you have, with those available to you highlighted in your grimoire, presented in a circle around the drawing area. The final piece of the playing field are your health gauges, one on each side, indicating how well, or badly you’re doing. Everything is laid out nicely, and presented well, so you’re able to tell the state of play at all times, but when the runes start flying things can get a little confusing, but only with certain runes, and that’s their whole purpose.
At the start of the game you don’t get many runes at your disposal, but your opponents are no better off, but as the game progresses more and more runes are available to you. The runes themselves come in several different types, indicated by their colour. First come the basic attack runes, which are green, these cause little damage, and are blockable using your shield, which is activated by holding the stylus on your character. Next you get the higher level attack runes, in red, and these aren’t fully blockable, although your shield will protect you from half their impact. You also get defensive runes too, which are yellow, these help with your defensive abilities obviously, like speeding up your shield’s recharge time, or mana production. Then things start getting interesting when magical runes are introduced, these are blue, and can have all sorts of effects on your opponent, transforming them in to animals, turning the playing field upside down, blocking the drawing area with floating skulls, and various other effects. Luckily these are blockable, but if drawn perfectly your shield is useless against them, and that’s where a problem arises.
The drawing system is very flexible about how roughly you can draw the runes, a good thing as they start to come thick and fast later in the game, but drawing a perfect rune is a different matter entirely. Whilst the AI can push out perfect runes at an ever increasing ratio as you progress I found it impossible to draw one myself, they must be expecting close to pixel accuracy for it. You do get one guaranteed means of creating a perfect rune though, your pet, by touching on the pet icon on the screen you are able to draw a rune roughly and it is stored as a perfect rune that you can unleash at any time, regardless of your mana supply, it’s still a little unfair though. Another thing that is unfair is the games learning curve, it starts off nice and relaxed and you’ll breeze through the training and most of the first stage of the tournament, but all of a sudden things start getting a lot harder. Opponents will get faster, and start using runes you don’t yet have access to, putting you at a serious disadvantage, and things become a real challenge, which is a little frustrating at first, making it more of a gradual thing would have been better.
It’s not a bad little game and they’ve definitely played to the strengths of the DS, it’s just a shame there isn’t more to it. The battle system would be ideal as part of an RPG, and I’m sure they could have shoehorned in the game’s story to an RPG easily enough. As it is though there just isn’t enough of the game to hold your interest for too long, and I can’t see the multiplayer mode adding much longevity it either.