If I told you that Dungeon Hearts was a match-3 puzzle game, RPG hybrid, would you dismiss it as another Puzzle Quest clone? Well, it is, but you shouldn't, because it isn't. Let me explain...Dungeon Hearts puts you in control of a party of four adventurers who rush headlong from one battle to the next in an unquenchable thirst for glory that doesn't end until they're all dead. As the adventures race in place and the world scrolls past them, monsters appear in a steady stream from the other side of the screen. Defeat one, the next appears, and the battle begins anew.
During battles, which account for about 99% of the gameplay, four lines are drawn horizontally across the screen, each aligned with one of the adventurers. Colored stones scroll along these lines, fate lines as the game calls them, from the right edge of the screen and make their way to the adventurers on the left. Using the mouse you need to drag these stones to place three of them of the same color together either horizontally or vertically. When you do they combine to form a gem that will damage the monster when double-clicked. The gem will also trigger other gems aligned with it either horizontally or vertically to explode, and the more gems in the chain reaction, the more damage is done to the monster. Include gems of different colors in the chain and you'll score even more bonus damage. The gems are also used to trigger the other types of icons that travel down the fate lines. Skulls represent the monster's attacks, and if they're not eliminated before they reach the end of a line they'll damage the adventurer that they hit. Spell and buff icons, for both the party and the monster, are also triggered or destroyed by the gems. If an adventurer dies during a battle, the corresponding colored stones become grayed over and can no longer be used to build gems. This gives you fewer opportunities to make gems, takes away some combos, and puts more obstacles on the fate lines. If you manage to win the battle, the adventurer will be revived for the next. If you lose all four in a battle, then it's game over. Defeat a monster and you'll get to play a fast-paced version of the game in which a tightly packed run of colored stars make their way down the fate lines. Matching three of the same color will level-up the corresponding adventurer, one level per every three stars matched. The game's fantasy theme and level-up bonus levels are the extent of its tie to RPGs, and it's far more of a puzzle game than it is an RPG. The background graphics are colorful and evoke memories of JRPGs of a console generation gone by, but you have to stay so focused on the fast-moving fate lines that you won't really be able to enjoy them. There's no persistence between games, so after your party is all dead you'll begin the next game from the beginning with a group of level one adventurers. And if there was any doubt left about the game's primary nature, at the end of a game you're given a score.
So it's not much of an RPG - no big deal as long as the puzzle part's fun, right? Well, Dungeon Hearts is a fun puzzle game, but also one that's more geared to those with quick reflexes than those who want to carefully setup and execute their gem combos. The game is fast moving and will keep you so focused that you won't be aware that a game can last twenty minutes or more unless you check a clock (luckily, the game will let you pick up where you left off if you need to leave early). My biggest complaint with the game comes from the controls, specifically that the mouse has a tendency to drop a stone as you try to move it around another stone, particular when you 're trying to turn a corner around another stone.
Dungeon Hearts is a fun and challenging puzzle game, but I can see it disappointing gamers looking for more of an RPG element in the game or those who will find that the fate lines move too fast for their tastes. It's certainly the kind of puzzle game you'll come back to now and again. Since it's an indie title and can be had for a relatively low price, it's easy to recommend adding this to your game library.
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