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Dillon's Rolling Western - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Dillon's Rolling Western

3DS Download | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now | $9.99 / £9.00
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28th May 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Time and again, real-life animals have been used as the basis for anthropomorphic mascots and star characters. Chickens? Raccoons? All been done before. But an Armadillo? Now there's something you don't see every day. Once you hear that this unique character is starring in a tower defense game, you may be quick to turn tail and run. However, even if you're not a big fan of the genre, you may do well to peer into some of the creative ideas explored in Dillon's Rolling Western.

    The game stars two traveling heroes who set off to help nearby villages that are faced with a consistent danger: having to protect their livestock against hordes of rock creatures known as Grocks. Dillon's rough and tough attitude has definitely been seen before, but he pulls it off fairly well. Being an armadillo and all, you have to admit his exterior helps his case. But even on the merits of his personality, his sidekick gives him plenty of opportunities to show his true colours. That aside, journeying to these different villages will have you interacting with different people, including the town mayors who just want the job to get done; as well as some kindly folk who offer quests you can undertake, including an eager beaver reporter and a dog general. Though there were a couple comments made over the course of the adventure that were kind of humorous, the dialogue seen during these brief interactions is often tame and fairly ordinary.

    These aforementioned monsters come in all shapes and sizes, springing forth from dens scattered about on the different environments you visit. Between Snaggrocks that hide in the ground and Motogrocks that get around on bikes, you'll have your work cut out for you both defending against these guys and preparing for each drawn-out encounter. Attack phases are spread out across three days with the enemies coming out at dusk when the sky turns red. Leading up to each of these high noon moments, you'll be given enough time to make your rounds to all the bases and set up towers, or visit existing ones to upgrade weaponry or beef up the armor. These are all in predetermined areas and even with some of the weapons that you'd think you'd be given control over (like the cannons), these situations also have finite limits in terms of direction and range. You also don't have a clock to see when these enemies will come out to play, but you are given warning signals to indicate when your time has been cut short.

During this time, you'll also want to make a habit of collecting Scruffles out on the field -- often found in grassy areas -- which act as each village's food source. And as you come to the realization that you're minutes away from engaging the enemy, you'll want to make your way over to the physical building before it closes so you can pick up useful items and trade in your Scruffles for additional Scrogs. Scrogs are defenseless, pig-shaped creatures that act as your life points, decreasing in chunks as enemies penetrate the Village gates. Upon completion of the third day, all the dens will dissolve and the threat will have been eradicated, allowing you to progress in your journey to a whole new village with its own layout and tricks to keep in mind. All things considered, it's actually quite easy to feel very involved with how the game flow is set up. The passage of time in real life works out to be at least 20 minutes for a full day's worth of prep work and attack phases, and with multiple villages to visit, you can see how the hours add up. 

    Controls in this game definitely take some getting used to. The Circle Pad is for moving Dillon to and fro while constant swipes of the stylus are used to get him curled up in a ball and roll wherever he needs to go. Because of his natural armor, Dillon is a pretty slow walker on the field. Even though it makes sense for his character, that doesn't necessarily make it a logical choice for the gameplay. Constantly rolling along the plane is not unlike using a skateboarding, having to kick with your foot, or in this case, drag down and release the stylus repeatedly. And when you actually stop the rolling and have him walk over to a landmark or cross a pool of mud, the game loses its sense of pace and it literally becomes a bit of a drag to control Dillon in this manner.

Early on, the game conveys a sense of division amongst its mechanics, phase executions, and even in the overall layout. Just on the subject of layout, the 3D Screen is where all the action takes place while the Touch Screen houses a host of different references. These include a map of the large-scale environments, important statistics such as enemy count and Village defenses, in addition to updates as to when towers are under attack or enemies are wiped out. Menu navigation feels a bit strange in this game as you use the Circle Pad to select the Back button(s) and tap the Touch Screen to confirm your selection. Also, pulling items from the menu is not immediate, which can get frustrating when you just miss an opportunity to freeze an enemy or toss a bomb its way simply because you had to tap on the icons twice. With multiple elements such as was mentioned above unwittingly tugging away at the structure, this all has ramifications on the overall level of cohesion, albeit not terribly serious.

    Furthermore, the game is split up into two main parts: exploration and battles. This distinction is made clear in the way you transition between these two phases in a not-so-seamless fashion. When you make contact with a Grock on the playing field, this will transport you to a closed-off battle area where Dillon must then defeat the enemy in question and perhaps a possy that wasn't present out on the field. While this is happening, whatever chaos is taking place on the outside does not come to a halt. In line with this, players will continue receiving live updates on the Touch Screen during this phase. This means, then, that even just in choosing which enemy to attack, you need to be wary of the distance you may need to travel once the battle finishes to react to enemies closing in on the Village.

It might make more sense to direct with the Circle Pad like you do during the exploration phase, but the battle areas have you controlling Dillon by holding and dragging the stylus on the Touch Screen. The feedback is usually pretty good, although pulling it back at the right angle for Dillon to actually start charging up for a powerful dash might take more practice. Initially, the simple roll-attack move you get from the very beginning becomes a bit problematic. Sure, this method is fine and dandy when used for a final blow or for weaker enemies, but to use this bash attack as your principal means of chipping away health doesn't exactly result in the most exciting gameplay experience; just the opposite, it becomes rather repetitive and feels like something is missing.

    As if to confirm said hunches, in time you will learn how to use aerial swipe attacks (continuous taps of the stylus with good timing) and grind attacks (hold down the stylus as soon as you collide with an enemy), both of which make this gameplay phase more enjoyable. The only caveat to all of these fun upgrades is that, interestingly enough, the bandanas, boots, and gloves you purchase aren't permanent additions to your closet. They do wear out, forcing you to buy them again if you want to reap the benefits that come from being able to string combos in the air or acquire a bigger sweep range for your attack. But honestly, had it not been for these gradual additions to the combat system, never being able to progress away from the usual roll-and-bounce method of attacking could've been a fiasco. Whether out on the field or in battle, there's no doubt that your first couple attempts to wrestle with the control system will leave you feeling as though the game were unnecessarily clunky. But by spending time with it to master, or, in some cases, get past the controls, there's a good game here.

   Dillon's Rolling Western has some pretty interesting mechanics besides the lure of getting to have greater control over the battlefield. This was detailed already, but there's a really interesting dynamic of traveling to the individual spots on a large map that presents a very time management-oriented style of play, not to mention a greater emphasis on planning and being able to multi-task. Because of the scope of each environment, you need to strategize carefully as to which enemies you'll attack right away, which ones you'll attack later, and which ones you'll rely on the towers to defeat in your absence. It's definitely not a quick-fire thing as with most tower defense titles, so that alone gives it leverage above the traditional games belonging to this genre.

    The game definitely has a difficulty curve that can, at times, be unrelenting if you don't adapt accordingly. What starts out as a slightly leisurely pace gets to an intense state before long. But more is required than just learning how to manage the towers effectively. Surprise curveballs are thrown in with new monsters that appear on the field, while the gradually increasing flow of enemies can sidetrack you from more pressing dangers as you take on far away enemies. The tension that comes from having all these enemies breathing down your neck, as it were, will prompt many mad dashes to the Village. 

Besides just tower maintenance and enemy encounters, there are also additional landmarks that could be seen as distractions in a sense, but they really help portray an overall sense of there being a world that players should feel immersed into -- despite the rough welcoming that awaits you at the start. Mines and Ancient Ruins present treasures you can trade in at the Village to fortify your gates (smaller finds) or redeem for large amounts of gold (in the case of gems). By supplementing all this with adjustable brick walls and barricades that you can create using dynamite, players have a much more active role than simply placing towers and watching them go.

    When you really break it down, Dillon's Rolling Western has a lot going on: mining, exploration, tower construction, weapon choices, treasure hunting, monitoring, battling, quest solving, and of course personal progression. There are plenty of core concepts at work here and the amalgamation of these different elements might not have meshed as well had the game been approached as a 2D top-down title. This in itself is a testament to the game's relative level of success in attempting to craft a 3D world with a sense of depth behind it. And, in a strange way, by incorporating all of these side tasks, Dillon's Rolling Western comes across as having taken inspirations from Zelda through treasure box discoveries, Heart Pieces, and a Wind Waker-esque visual style.

On a related note, the presentation in this game is mostly good, if not great. Right away I was a little worried about the framerate during introductions specifically, as it didn't look as smooth as it did in the videos I had seen prior. Thankfully, these worries quickly subsided as I observed some neat use of 3D during battles, in-your-face visuals, and some nicely-designed maps. The camera can be a bit wonky at times and the music does repeat quite a bit, but I never found either to reach an annoying state. Specifically with the music, the tracks were definitely suitable for the different events and times they were associated with, and I found everything ties into the whole adventurous theme quite well -- conveyed especially through Dillon as a character.

    One thing I will definitely say to the game's praise is that there's a great attention to replay value here. Returning to completed levels allows you to aim for more performance stars, for one. Plus, you're also given the added bonus of being able to start raids earlier to skip wait times. In short, there is lots of content here to be worth the $10 price tag. I spent more time with this than other retail games, so that alone makes it worth the price of admission in my books. With that said, the flaws prevent the game from reaching the full potential and maximum fun level that the core concept paves the way for. The mechanics have a lot of guts to them and the game is unique, I'll give it that. Sadly, the execution does get in the way of the full realization of this concept. 

A prime piece of evidence to support this is the fact that it feels draining to take a break from the game for a while and then return to it, having to go through all the processes all over again. The fact that the game is so surprisingly hard to get back into is an indication that Dillon's Rolling Western doesn't have what it takes to be a long-standing title that people will look back on in the distant future. That doesn't make it not worth trying out; just that it's not going to turn heads. It is to be acknowledged that those who actually manifest a dislike towards tower defense games won't have as much patience to tough it out and therefore will likely not see the game through. The game doesn't feel as much like a portable, pick-up-and-play game as much as other titles in the genre. This is not only due to the fact that gameplay carries on for multiple rounds, but also that the player ends up feeling like more time has gone by than actually has been the case.

    The fact is, for a tower defense game and an eShop title, Dillon's Rolling Western provides a fun and unique take on the standard principles seen in this genre, and although not everything comes together to a superb degree, the extent to which the blend of strategy and action becomes a full blanketing concept that overrides conscientious decisions is commendable. Much of this comes down to differentiation in the way Dillon's Rolling Western's style of gameplay contrasts that of simplistic tower defense titles. It certainly likes to push the envelope while at the same time resisting the idea of letting go of said envelope. Still, despite what may initially seem clunky, the controls, mechanics, and overall gameplay really pick up after a couple hours of playtime, transforming what could have been mundane and repetitive affair into a tower defense game with depth and an adventure focus to back it up.

23/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Multiple concepts at work, mechanics feel divided at times, controls not very intuitive, temporary upgrades, surprises along the way
Presentation 8/10 - Nice visual effects with the 3D slider, great graphics, soundtrack is mostly enjoyable to listen to and suited to the on-screen action
Enjoyment 3/5 - Surprisingly deep, lack of pick-up-and-play appeal may turn off some, difficulty really ramps up, new abilities make battles enjoyable
Extra Content 5/5 - Quests to undertake, can go back to levels you've cleared to improve your star rank or beat best times, lots of content for the price

Equivalent to a score of 77% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Dillon's Rolling Western
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