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AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon

7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the RealmRPGamer Staff
edited January 2009 in Staff Review Blogs
12/10 4:30PM
Game time: 2 hours

AWAY finally arrived two days ago. Being that I am living in a hotel this week and next, and that I have a full weekend planned already, it will probably take me longer than usual to finish what I assume is a fairly short game. Those are the breaks, I guess. Blame Majesco, if you are the blaming type.

I have a rant planned, but I'll dig into the game itself first. It's cute, with a graphics style that rips off Wind Waker while being hampered by the DS's horrid 3D capabilities. For me, it causes the typical DS 3D reaction where I cringe for the first 5 minutes, then get used to it until the next time I turn the DS on. Fortunately, the dungeons look much better than the outside world. I truly cannot recall off the top of my head if they are 2D or 3D, but since they aren't ugly, I'm going to guess 2D.

There's an interesting premise to the dungeons. Each floor fills the top and bottom screen. You can move freely between them. One of the screens will have a timer on it, and when it reaches zero, the floor on that screen will shuffle and change to a new layout. Naturally, being on that screen when it shuffles is bad. After several such shuffles, the stairs to the next level will appear. It's a simple, but unique and fun gameplay idea. The layouts are not random, and floors eventually shuffle back, so if you miss a treasure chest, you can hang around for a while until a shuffle brings back the layout that the chest was on. The goal of each dungeon is to reach the bottom floor -- right now dungeons only have 1-3 floors -- and rescue the villager there by returned back to the top floor. The protagonist can swing a weapon, cast a limited number of spells, and thats it, so it is very simple. Right now, and remember that I am only two hours in, I don't think it's worth $30. It feels more like a very well polished flash or XBLA game than a full priced DS title. We'll see.

Now for my rant. AWAY is not an RPG. At all. It uses the reflex-driven, puzzle part of my brain and plays more like Meteos in that the gameplay can be frantic, often requiring you to gaze at the entire screen at once. Yes, there are experience levels and equipment, but I'm beyond annoyed that people think that makes a game an RPG. This is less RPG than Zelda 1. Experience and equipment are Japanese mechanics. Western developers tend to force the player to get better. Japan likes to scale enemies while also scaling the protagonist. Take N, for example -- its a fun flash platformer where you can jump, and that's it. Would giving the character experience levels make it an RPG? What if you could jump higher at later experience levels, and later floors become "harder" in anticipation of this? It's still not an RPG. Neither is AWAY. I'm sure at some point I will get a sword that increases my attack, and around the same time, enemies will scale up so that it takes a higher attack to kill them in one hit. This does not alter the gameplay in any way. I played Castle Crashers last month. It has experience, equipment, and way more customizability than AWAY, but wasn't covered by this site. Why? It wasn't made in Japan, and therefore is not an RPG.

Aaaanyway. RPG or not, AWAY is decent. I hope that it adds something new to the formula as the game goes on, although I am not going to hold my breath. Feel free to check out the reader review JuMeSyn wrote. I haven't read it, so I can't endorse it, but if you are hankering for a review from a fellow RPG fan, he's written plenty and does a good job. I don't read reviews for games I am going to review, otherwise I'd have read it.

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1/4 6:00PM
Game time: 13 hours

I have been slowly chugging through AWAY. I was busy for a couple of weeks, then I got back home for the first time since Thanksgiving to see Persona 4 waiting at my door. But now, Persona 4 is done and reviewed, and I went ahead and finished Blue Dragon because I was at the final dungeon before I left home in November, so I'm back to AWAY.

Really, I'm not liking it. For a top down, 2D action game, it isn't very good, and with better stuff like Phantom Hourglass, Lunar Knights, and Rocket Slime available, there isn't much reason for anyone to waste money on AWAY.

That said, it is not terrible at all. The premise for the shuffling dungeons is nice, but too simple to really carry a game without it getting old, which it has. Because the game is so simple, the attempts at increasing the difficulty in later dungeons make the game frustrating rather than challenging. The small floors are now cramped with traps and enemies. You can't walk through enemies, so they function like damage-dealing walls when you are trying to hurry through through an area to avoid being shuffled off the floor. While I do like the urgent pace of the game, it is not executed or taken advantage of very well. As short as dungeons are, I have trouble playing through more than one at a time, and the game definitely feels long at this point purely from the lack of inventiveness and the reliance on a single gameplay concept that felt overused hours ago.

I'd like to finish up AWAY while I'm back in a hotel this week. After AWAY, the Ys DS remake is up next. I plugged in the cart to make sure it worked and ended up playing it for 3 hours yesterday, so it looks like I'll have an easier time playing through that than I did with AWAY.

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1/8 8:00PM
Game time: 19 hours

I just finished the game. By the end, the dungeons had become very repetitive and rote, and the already lengthy dialogue in-between them got even longer. I played most of the game with a certain overall score in mind, then the last 3 or 4 hours were so unenjoyable that I knocked it down .5 when I wrote the review at work today. Later tonight I'll go over the review again and self-edit it. Hopefully I'll be able to post it not long after that.



The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.

Comments

  • Green NuGreen Nu Member Full Members
    edited December 2008
    I'm glad someone else feels the way I do about the DS and 3D. I recently have been getting really sick of the shape of the characters every company uses. Isn't there another available style?

    Away Shuffle Dungeon has magic, that's what makes it an RPG.
    You must gather your party before venturing forth
  • _ethos_ethos Member Full Members
    edited December 2008
    Although it may have been more appropriate for you to have compared the visuals to Phantom Hourglass.
    Tsk tsk, Glenners.
    [url=\"http://riddlethos.com\"]Riddlethos[/url] - Dragon Quest IX Week
  • MacstormMacstorm Ysy St. Administrators
    edited December 2008
    Don't get carried away...
    "The universe is already mad. Anything else would be redundant."
    Twitter @FinalMacstorm
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited December 2008
    Graphics rarely attract my interest unless they're really good or really bad. Shuffle Dungeon has graphics that failed to impress me either way, and then I stopped thinking about the visuals much. Save for occasions when I needed to pay close attention to the ground in dungeons so as not to step on Bad Things.
    I'll agree that the game is only tenuously an RPG, and a Zelda comparison is absolutely warranted.
    Have fun with the last dungeon - you'll know it because the entrance requires a brief Fantastic Voyage homage.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • HeeHoHeeHo Member Full Members
    edited December 2008
    I don't really get your rant. Not that I disagree about Away but RPGs that scale enemy levels aren't RPGs? As much as it doesn't make sense (some games it does oddly enough) it's sometimes preferred in RPGs because the rewards are still worthwhile as opposed to wasting your time going through an area where you kill everything in one blow and the opportunity cost isn't worth it, not to mention how boring it is.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited December 2008
    The game does not scale enemy power based on your own. I wandered into a couple of earlier dungeons late in the game and killed everything in one hit. Had I let those enemies hit me I might have learned that their attack power was minimal, but the early dungeons are much less frantic than later ones and I had no trouble avoiding easy enemies after tangling with the opponents later on.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited January 2009
    Maybe I wasn't clear with the "enemy scaling" thing. I meant as the game goes on, enemies get more life and deal more damage, but the player also gets more life and deals more damage. The need for experience levels and equipment -- often Japanese gameplay mechanics -- has become part of the definition of "RPG," and that bothers me. AWAY could do away with experience levels and equipment and it would not alter the gameplay. Right now, I have about 3x as much life as I did at the start at the game, but enemies hit for 2-3x more damage. I really don't see that as a meaningful mechanic, but it is the only way AWAY can possibly be defined as an RPG.

    The truth is that AWAY is an RPG because Mistwalker made it. That's what bugs me. Games should be categorized by how they play, not what country or company oversaw their development.

    Is that clearer? I didn't mean that enemies level up with you, like they do in Oblivion.

    Also:
    *updated*



    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • SiliconNooBSiliconNooB Member Full Members
    edited January 2009
    Honestly the DS' 3d graphics have never worried me, they just remind me of PS1 graphics which I'm ok with.
    Lusipurr.com: One man's monument to himself!
    9 out of 10 Dentists recomend UNDERBOOB!
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited January 2009
    The last dungeon is the most obnoxious of all with the nasty damage-dealing aspects. Have fun with it.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited January 2009
    I think I just hit it. It's full of those darned ball enemies who can pass through walls, only their attack seems faster and they do more damage. I just got about 8 game overs trying it, and I never got deeper than the 3rd floor. You also have to escort someone IN, which is annoying.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited January 2009
    The true final dungeon is the only one with five floors, but I don't recall having to escort someone, so that means (lucky!) you haven't hit it yet!
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited January 2009
    Noooooo! I tried the dungeon I am on about 6 or 7 more times after my last post and still died every time. Fortunately, there's no penalty for dying and each attempt only takes a minute or two. This is the first time all game that I felt like there was a difficulty spike, so I was hoping it was the end.
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • Mike MoehnkeMike Moehnke Code: Kirin Administrators
    edited January 2009
    If it makes you feel any better, I uttered quite a bit of profanity while playing the last dungeons. BUT - the final dungeon doesn't involve an escort mission (either way). The final boss is after the final dungeon though, not in it. Maybe that will make you feel better.
    It's not what he's eating, but what's eating him that makes it ... sort of interesting.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited January 2009
    *updated*

    The dungeon that took about 15 attempts for me to beat was the 1st half of the 2nd to last dungeon. I'm not sure if you would consider that the next to last dungeon or the 3rd to last dungeon, since it has a save point in the middle. It did have 5 floors, though. The last three dungeons all had 5 floors.

    As you can read in the blog's final, brief update, I thought the game went downhill in the end. I read your review after I wrote mine, and was surprised by how positive you were. I found AWAY to be sloppy, relying on a simple gimmick to drive 20 hours of not-so-fun gameplay.



    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited January 2009
    The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.
This discussion has been closed.