|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Global A Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: UFO Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 9, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
When most gamers think of a dungeon, their minds fill with images of decrepit subterranean corridors littered with dust, slime, and dirt. They think of dangerous traps, locked treasure chests, and hidden passageways. They imagine dank rooms carved out by nests of evil denizens with glowing eyes and sharp teeth. They anticipate dark hallways where unspeakable horrors and untold fortunes await. The last thing they'd expect to find when venturing into the depths is a well-manicured labyrinth featuring custom-tailored rooms designed to match the interior decorating interests of a cornucopia of different slathering beasts. This is part of what makes Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War so unusual and entertaining.
In the vast majority of dungeon hacking RPG games, you play the role of a brave adventurer (or a party of adventurers) armed to the teeth with spells and weaponry who, for some reason or another, feels compelled to throw caution to the wind and carve your way through ancient ruins, unholy catacombs, or some other dismal setting. While Dungeon Maker II contains many of the traditional elements you'd expect to find in any traditional dungeon hack, the game also throws players an equal number of quirky gameplay aspects that make the experience oddly engaging.
The game's introductory story - a lengthy text that rambles on about deities, demons, and humans - comes off as a poorly translated mess that occasionally borders on the nonsensical. Essentially, thousands of years ago humans were almost wiped clean off the face of the planet in an epic battle between gods residing in the heavens and demons dwelling beneath the earth's surface. After nearly being destroyed in a cataclysmic-scale assault, the few remaining demons elected to sign a 70,000-year truce with the gods. Dungeon Maker II opens in a time just after that truce expires, and a single renegade demon takes it upon himself to rekindle another conflict with the gods. As a budding dungeon maker, you've elected to attempt to lure the demon into one of your labyrinths and slay it before another apocalypse unfolds and obliterates the human race.
Despite the grandiose war theme, the urgent tone of the story doesn't immediately carry over into the gameplay. Dungeon Maker II progresses at a slow-but-steady pace driven largely by your own personal whims. The gameplay balances between dungeon creation, action-heavy combat, and taking time to improve your character and manage necessary resources. Almost humorously, you'll be creating masterfully complex dungeons with the sole intention of attracting different kinds of evil creatures to take up residence within their winding corridors. While creating affordable housing for dangerous monsters sounds like a rather noble cause, the real purpose of the dungeon is to lure the beasts in so you can slay them and take their loot. This is where the hacking part comes in.
Spending time stocking up on items, picking up new quests, and chatting up local residents at the hub town are all necessities, but the bulk of the fun comes from making your own multi-level dungeon piece-by-piece and then adventuring in its depths as you see fit. The game eases you into the dungeon making process, while gradually adding in new layers of complexity. As you progress through the game, you'll earn money and unlock new kinds of pieces to buy for your dungeon. It's with these components that you'll form your grand masterpieces. New building elements can be summoned in and attached to the ends of unfinished sections of corridor, and you also have the option to refurbish or modify dungeon elements you've already laid down. Early on, your dungeon will only consist of a single floor, but you'll gain approval from the kingdom to dig deeper to attract nastier beasts further along in the adventure.