You wake up on the cold, damp stone floor, tinged blue by the moonlight shining in through the barred windows, nothing but a dirty sack covering your body. No two ways around it, you’re in a dungeon.
“What? Why? How did I get here?”
I don’t know, and it’s really not important right now. You have to find a way to get out. It’s time to escape.
Oh, I’m sorry. Cold, lifeless dungeons are your scene? I didn’t realize. I’ll just be on my way then.
“Okay okay, I see your point. Just one more question. Who am I?”
Remember that scene from “Aladdin” where he gets thrown in prison and meets the creepy old guy? You’re that guy, or at least you could do a passable impression. Dotard is your name, and this is your game: Dotard’s Escape.
Dotard’s Escape is a maze game in which you, the above-mentioned Dotard, must escape from a dungeon before a timer runs out. Gameplay wise, it’s very simple. You start out in a dead-end hallway. From here you must explore the twisted, winding corridors of your prison, collecting map pieces and avoiding traps as you go. Every map piece you collect fills out your expandable mini map in the corner of your screen, while every trap you fail to get past will take away a chunk of your remaining time. Once you construct a detailed enough map it’s a simple matter of finding the exit and hauling out.
This might sounds like it would get incredibly boring after playing a few rounds, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, you can only run through the same dungeon a handful of times before you find the quickest way out and put the game aside forever. Luckily, you’ll never have to play the same stage twice, as the dungeons are randomly generated each time you load up. Complementing this is the game’s in-depth customizable settings. You can alter everything from the size of the map to the difficulty of the traps. Ultimately, this allows you to play anything from a maze you’d find on the back of a serial box to a gauntlet of truly labyrinthine proportions. This goes a long way toward staving off repetition and should keep you coming back for quite some time.
Artistically, Dotard’s Escape is presented in such a way that it comes off as endearingly funny, but not overly cute. The style isn’t unlike something you might expect of a Peter Molyneux game. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll find yourself letting out a few hearty chuckles whenever you watch Dotard burned to a crisp or impaled on a spike (gruesome, I know, but it’s true), and that’s not just lip service. On a personal note, I was having far from the best of days when I was given the game to review. As soon as I fell victim to my first trap (a bottomless pit, if I recall correctly), though, I was grinning and things seemed just a little bit better. Dotard’s Escape is one of those games.
Unfortunately, in making Dotard’s Escape, Lux et Umbra decided to make use of the dreaded virtual joystick. Never in my days have I seen a game that makes good use of the virtual joystick control scheme, and this is no exception. It’s a nice touch to be able to move in 360 degrees, but ultimately it’s unnecessary. Every trap spans the width of every hallway, so there’s nothing to go around, and the fidgety joystick just leads to the Dotard getting stuck on walls more often than is convenient. The alternative to this is the virtual directional pad, a step up from the joystick, but not much better. It’s clear that the game was designed with 360 degree movement in mind, and the D-pad just makes everything feel clumsy. Still, though the controls are inconvenient, they are far from game-breaking, especially given the quality of the rest of the title.
Overall, Dotard’s Escape is well above par for its genre. It’s an epically addictive, humorous title. It only falls short in its control scheme, but if you can forgive that, you’ll find that it’s well worth its $0.99 price tag.
[review pros=”Addictive gameplay, lots of customization, legitimately funny, perfect artistic style” cons=”Poor controls” score=”90″]