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DaGeDar - DS Review

Game Info
DaGeDar

DS | GameMill Entertainment / Black Lantern Studios | 1-2 Players | Out Now (North America)
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Review
24th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

While there may not be much representation here in Canada, Cepia's DaGeDar toys have become something of a hit with kids. Originally launching in Pheonix, Arizona as an exclusive, the brand has since grown to other areas of the United States. Branching off that, GameMill Entertainment has taken the DaGeDar license and developed it into a racing game -- a fair transition given the formula of the toy line. How does it fare?

    DaGeDar is split up into four main components. First up, you have Championship mode where players can engage in tournaments within different themed Zones, each consisting of five tracks. Time Attack allows you to play on your own and aim for pre-set target times, while Practice Race gives you the opportunity to test out one of the tracks at your own pace. And finally, the game's Multiplayer mode allows for single- and multi-card play between two local opponents. Each DaGeDar racing ball has its own design to it, offering players personalities they can click with. By default, you start out with only 10 DaGeDar characters to choose from, but in time, you can unlock 100 different ones. And much like the toy, the design of the game is fairly simple.

    Taking the form of a 2D side-scrolling racer, participants race on green-coloured tracks, with loops, slopes, and inclines being the norm. Common elements seen in all levels include cannons that shoot you forward at top speed, boost pads that increase your acceleration, rough patches that will slow you down, atom-shaped boost chargers that add energy to your turbo meter, as well as electric barriers that will produce a shock when touched. When put together, levels carry a nice sense of speed that often reward players who have quick reflexes and are adapable.

    
Controls are easy for kids to get used to. You hold the Left or Right Buttons to accelerate, press B to jump, and use the Y Button for turbo boosts. As players are being shot out of cannons, it's important that they learn to switch to the other directional button in anticipation of upcoming loops and dips in the path. Hugging a wall in the right direction will allow your DaGeDar to move downwards quickly and not be slowed down by a temporary direction mishap.

    On your first go, you'll definitely sense some surprise factor in the way certain tracks take you in unexpected directions. As you go for two or three more laps on the same level, you'll be in a better position to use the knowledge of the general layout to adapt an advancing strategy. Revisiting levels again, that basic knowledge will still be there, but because there are more than 20 different tracks to play on, it's not likely that you'll remember every little detail and secret path. Still, with quite a few feeling similar in layout, it's important to point out that levels within worlds don't feel like they have enough differences between them to be considered totally varied. 

    Right before gaps in the road, you'll find signs on the track to give you short-notice warning on what's up ahead. If you don't react quickly when you first stumble upon these path breaks, it'll end up slowing you down and giving your opponent the chance to get ahead. While the game doesn't use a checkpoint system, whenever you dash into an electrical barrier, you'll be promptly returned close to the spot where the electrocution occured, so players won't have to worry about being severely penalized for simple mistakes. Rather, having this feature implemented ensures that the competitive feel is retained throughout an entire race, so players can still feel like they have a chance of taking home the win even when they're a bit behind.

    
In spite of the simplicity of the level designs, DaGeDar still carries a strategic element that bodes well for maintaining player interaction. Going back to the boost meter I referenced earlier, using turbo won't produce a major rush of speed, meaning that this system is not meant for long-term boosting. Instead, players make use of this feature sparringly and in select areas -- like at the apex of a loop or when going uphill -- to briefly propel their characters forward. On a similar note, timing your jumps right can save you a few a seconds of time in the long haul or can lead you to discovering paths that weren't in plain sight. When you consider the tight competition produced during races, this element of strategy certainly aids in one's enjoyment of the game.

    When they made mention of the computer opponents as being "tough" in the trailer, I didn't expect them to actually be right about that. After having totally underestimated the AI, I was surprised at how enjoyable these simple races were against opponents who were clearly determined to win. The AI always put up a good fight from the very beginning and managed to beat me more than a few times. Given the feeling of close competition that the developers were gunning for, I definitely think they did a good job at molding that feeling together through the computer-controlled opponents.

    Looking at it as a whole package, I think the DS release of this license fit in nicely with other toy-based game. In many ways, it feels very much like Hot Wheels, just with ball bearings instead of cars. And, much to my surprise,  DaGeDar is actually a fun game for kids. I think the developers have properly captured the competitive feel of the DaGeDar toys and have used that to develop levels where skillful use of technique is encouraged throughout. 

    
In terms of replay value, there's quite a bit to unlock, not only in the different League difficulties, but also with the large number of playable DaGeDar characters. There are also hidden Tokens in each zone that you can search out for, but I found these were very hard to find, especially given how you're always rushing through and don't really have time to do a lot of exploring. And again, there are additional modes to sustain repeated plays both on your own and when playing with a friend. If a sequel was ever to be attempted in the future, though, the developers might want to consider adding online play to make the game even more replayable.

    The game's presentation gets the job done, featuring decent backgrounds that neither enhance or detract from the main focus of the game. While the music sounds like something you'd perhaps hear in one of Gameloft's mobile releases, it's nice that they have some marble-rolling sound effects in place. But that's about all there is to be said about this aspect of the game.

    While older racing fans may tire of the premise sooner, kids will find much to do in DaGeDar and, more importantly, will have fun in the process. With a good sense of speed, challenging AI, and strategic gameplay, not even the somewhat repetitive track design can prevent me from recommending this game to parents.


21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Easy controls, mostly simple level designs, strategic turbo system, side-scrolling format rewards timing and quick reflexes
Presentation 6/10 - Gets the job done with average background visuals, marble-rolling sound effects, generic music that sounds like it came from Gameloft
Enjoyment 3/5 - Quite enjoyable, challenging computers, sense of speed has a Hot Wheels feel to it, tracks within Zones are somewhat repetitive
Extra Content 5/5 - A good number of tracks, multiple leagues, aim for target times in Time Attack, hidden Tokens, multiplayer, unlockables

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System


Review by KnucklesSonic8



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