All-Stars Dungeons And Diamonds – Review
Follow Genre: Arcade, Indie
Developer: Giant Enemy Labs
Publisher: Giant Enemy Labs
Platforms: PC, Mac
Tested on: PC

All-Stars Dungeons And Diamonds – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Interesting gameplay elements, especially in the Ice level
Bad: No online multiplayer, little gameplay variety
User Score
7.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Retro classics have always been able to inspire high score addictions, baiting players into playing and replaying the same game in order to garner the best score in their respective arcade halls. The greatest thing about these points is that they can be used in boasting sessions, as we beat our chests while laughing at one another’s puny results. The high score chase itself, however, is a lonely road to glory.

Giant Enemy Lab’s first indie game All-Stars Dungeons And Diamonds, often abbreviated as ASDAD, aims to make the arcade experience not just a means to big numbers, but rather a goal in itself. By putting traditional maze running into a competitive setting, the game not only allows players to rack up some nice scores, Pac-Man style, but also to interfere with one another’s quest for points.

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Story

Simply put, ASDAD has no story at all. Two characters run into one of three dungeons, trying to gather as many diamonds as possible within the time limit. At the time of its release, the game features five characters: Master Thief, Justice Hood, Cap’n Van Derdecken, Shovel Knight and our personal favourite, Jill Ette.

Graphics

Visually, ASDAD could be described as a polished 16-bit adventure, a choice which is no doubt related to the fact that Giant Enemy Lab is a one man studio. In an attempt to bring some variety to the game’s look, each of the three available mazes has its own distinct style.

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Sound

Like all of All-Stars Dungeons and Diamonds, its soundtrack has sprouted from the creative brain of Elias Zacarias. With its mix of the genre’s typical MIDI sounds and more modern instruments, it blends in really well with the game’s overall retro feel.

The rest of the sound design comes in handy while playing, as each of the power-ups and power-downs has its own distinct noise as it is activated. Whenever your opponent has tried to screw you over, the corresponding sound will indicate what happened to you, which can help you to make split-second decisions.

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Gameplay

Loyal 3rd-Strike readers may have noticed that up until now, the review has been pretty short in comparison to our usual texts. This actually has a very good reason, as the total amount of time it took us to see and do everything in this game – test every character, play on every map and use all power-ups/-downs – was about ten minutes.

That’s right, ten minutes worth of playtime was all we needed to ensure that we had seen everything this game has to offer. This is of course mostly due to the fact that there is no story to speak of. There’s only one game mode, which either pits two players against one another, or one player versus an A.I. opponent. Moreover, none of the five characters bring anything unique to the table, which effectively makes them a small collection of interchangeable names and sprites.

Nevertheless, the game does try to spice things up by giving us three mazes to compete in, trying to take as many diamonds as possible, and each maze comes with its own dangers and rules. One takes place in a mansion and should be regarded as the default level, whereas another represents a pyramid and tends to flatten careless characters underneath giant boulders.

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Finally, the third maze encases everything in ice and snow, providing a most interesting game mechanic that we would have loved to see in more maps. At the start of each match, everything is covered with a thick layer of snow, which is removed as characters wade their way through the pathways. Any tile without snow reveals an ice tile, effectively speeding up characters who decide to run back the way they came.

Now, when you combine this extra speed to the presence of treasure chests, which only appear on tiles without any diamonds and contain all power-ups/-downs, this makes for a very interesting decision: do you slowly advance through the maze, gathering diamonds and racking up points, or does the prospect of empowering yourself – or harassing the enemy – seem more valuable?

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Conclusion

All-Stars Dungeons And Diamonds is one of those indie games that can definitely liven up a game evening for short bursts at a time. However, it didn’t quite capture our full attention as Pix the Cat did, for example. Whereas we played that game for hours on end, ultimately realising we had spent an entire evening doing nothing but bash into each other, ASDAD never lead to such a gaming binge.

This is mostly due to the lack of “true competition,” as you never really feel the impact your power-downs have on your opponent. Sure, you can confuse their controls or steal their power-ups, but you never get to meet them head-on, instead just chasing diamond after diamond until the timer eventually stops.

It should be noted that Giant Enemy Labs has promised to include more characters, maps, game modes and even an online multiplayer option in the nearby future, all of which will be free of charge. This could mean that in a few months’ time, ASDAD could become an indie favourite of many gamer gatherings. As it stands now, though, it doesn’t quite pack the punch it needs to keep up with the leading games of the indie scene.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
All-Stars Dungeons And Diamonds - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Tom Cornelis
Tom Cornelis


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