Wow. Deathtrap Dungeon is an excellent conversion of the Fighting Fantasy book, and truly gives the player a feeling of being inside the dangerous dungeon.
Traps are cleverly set; you'll find yourself realizing you've stepped on the wrong floor or pushed the wrong button a second before arrows or fireballs are hurled from a hidden alcove at you. If you're lucky, you can make a super fluky back flip over, and, if not, you'll find yourself impaled or fried. Oh, and speaking of frying, you look too cool with your hair and skin scorched from your body. Nice touch of gore!
The only problems I found with Deathtrap Dungeon were ones to do with clipping. Often, I'd find myself staring at an enemy that was "hiding" behind a huge stone pillar . . . through the pillar! Or, I'd be able to see some traps/secret passages through the wall before actually coming upon them. Kind of crummy because it ruined the surprise.
Enemies, on the other hand, were funny and challenging. The Jesters in the circus level made farting noises with their armpits, honked their nose at me, played peek-a-boo, and even bent over to fart. Felt bad killing the demonic comedians and scattering their body parts to all parts of the room.
Deathtrap Dungeon is a fun, and immersive game I enjoyed a lot. Although it maybe was a little bit shorter than I had expected, it still gave a great rush.
Graphics: Great graphics, bad clipping.
Sound: Wonderful sound--heard some Quake sounds in there. Weird!
Enjoyment: Tons of fun!
Replay Value: Just like an action adventure, the thrill is in playing it. Although, the puzzles are no longer a mystery once you've solved it and the traps aren't a surprise anymore.
Take Lara Croft, stick her in a chainmail bikini, throw her into a dungeon filled with tricks, traps, and monsters, and you have the essence of Deathtrap Dungeon.
The game's concept comes from Ian Livingstone, a veteran paper game designer and creator of the Fighting Fantasy series of flip books from way back when. But Deathtrap Dungeon is no epic roleplaying quest; gameplay falls very decidedly within the action/puzzler range.
Okay, the plot. Yet again, a mad warlord has set up a dungeon full of traps and monsters nearby his castle, challenging adventurers from the land enter this place at their own peril. The risks are great, but the rewards are plenty. This is one of the oldest plots in computer gaming, dating back to the days before the first Wizardry, The Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. Still, it's enough of a rationale to get the game going, and it does give the level designers an excuse to create fiendishly difficult traps that wouldn't logically exist in a fantasy world otherwise.
You play as one of two characters--a male warrior or a slightly more exposed female one. Both the characters look all right but when the female character stands in certain shadows, it looks like she had originally been modeled to wear a skirt, which was changed to a skimpier bikini brief later on. This seems just a tad cynical, even for a videogame.
The actual dungeons are pretty wide open, brightly lit for the most part, and visually appealing on a 3Dfx. However, as with all Tomb Raider games, the camera shifts around a lot to follow the character as they move around the room. On the one hand, being able to see the character is an aid for jumping puzzles and hand-to-hand combat. On the other hand, it's distracting if not handled well. Sadly, Deathtrap Dungeon is a really good example of the latter.
The control choices are self-explanatory: you can jump, move about, or fight, with several kinds of blows--side slashes, stabbing thrusts, or an overhead chop. You'll also find some magic items and powerful missile weapons to aid your quest. But control is a bit sticky in hand-to-hand combat--I often found myself staring at a wall, barely able to turn. Games like Interplay's Die by the Sword do a much better job of achieving playable third-person combat. Add all of this to the Deathtrap Dungeon's unpredictable camera movements, and you're talking about a lot of frustration and unnecessary deaths simply because you are fighting the interface as well as the monsters.
Even though all of this is really irritating, the single most annoying thing about Deathtrap Dungeon has to be the save game feature. You cannot, as in most PC games, save just anywhere. You must go to one of the save points, and save there. Unfortunately, in a game where the character dies quite a lot (it's a Deathtrap Dungeon, remember), this process becomes frustrating very quickly. Worse still, when you die, the game automatically reloads from the start of the level (a five to ten second process). At this point you have to hit escape, and then reload your last saved game, which wastes even more time. This is kind of insulting, like telling PC owners that hey, we're not even going to bother to play to your platform's strengths.
In the end, all of Deathtrap Dungeon's weaknesses just keep adding up until you are left with an unappealing game that boasts some nice graphics. Unfortunately, good looks aren't nearly enough to make a game worth playing.
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