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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G3 @ 800 MHz    Hard Disk: 18 MB    Graphics: 1024x768, 32 MB VRAM

Brave Dwarves: Back for Treasures
July 21, 2006 | David Markowitz

Click to enlarge

The mage making progress
Have you had your daily dose of cheese today? If not, then prepare yourself for a hefty helping. Brave Dwarves: Back For Treasures by Gameover-Games and Exclusive Games (distributing the Mac version) is a very colorful and sometimes fun yet cheesy action game reminiscent of older games like Super Mario Bros. and Lode Runner. It has the item collecting, quick monster stomping, and energy of Super Mario Bros., the map design style of Lode Runner, and the fantasy theme of Dungeons and Dragons. However, even if you like all three of those game styles, you still may find this game too easy and cheesy (yes, I'll be using that word a lot in this review) for your liking. If you have a six-year-old child, he or she may enjoy it though. In fact, the developers clearly point out that the game is non-violent and designed for all ages, and they are true to their word. No blood is shed in combat, and there is no gore of which to speak. All things die in a puff of smoke, only to be reborn seconds later (makes me wonder, do dwarves go to heaven?).

This review was performed on a dual 2.7Ghz G5, so it of course performed just fine. However, most Macs from the last five years should be able to handle the game without any trouble as far as performance goes.

A Mess O' Gems
The background of Brave Dwarves is essentially that Evil comes into the dwarves' domains and takes over, and it's your job to beat them back to recover your rightful place yadda yadda yadda. Basically the point of the game is: collect lots of treasures while killing monsters and looking for keys to get to the next level. Pretty simple. You make your way through the game as either a dwarven mage or a dwarven warrior. That's it, just those two choices. The main difference between the two is their attack types (explained below). There are five different environments, each having 20 levels. In each level, you must collect three keys to open the gate to the next level. The levels start easy but slowly become larger and more challenging. The final level of each area contains a boss in what ends up being, ironically, one of the simplest of the 20 areas. That's right, the boss levels are easier than the rest of the game! Oh, and did I mention that you actually get to see a preview of the bosses in the main menu? For some strange reason they all walk around randomly on the screen.

While you're wandering around the seemingly randomly fabricated levels looking for the keys and the exit, you're collecting hundreds of gems, orbs, power-ups, and treasures. The treasures simply add to your score. The power-ups are standard items like extra life, invincibility, and time stop (stops monsters from moving for a few seconds). The gems give you both points and weapon/magic power (essentially mana). However, the most interesting items are the orbs. Both character types get 12 different attack methods among four magical energy types (fire, water, earth, and electricity). Every time you obtain an orb of a certain color (that corresponds to one of the energy types), you get access to a more powerful attack method of that energy type. This system is the most interesting aspect to the game. Each attack method works differently. Some move only along the ground while others hit air and ground creatures. Some move in a straight line while others home in on targets. The more successful player learns how to use each of the attack types in various situations.

Of course, the game isn't very difficult, so even if you don't strategize at all, you'll rarely have much trouble. The monsters simply walk back and forth without much in the way of intelligence (though a couple of them are scripted to do something when they spot you, like running at you, or throwing something at you). The only real challenges seem to come from some bugs (or one might call them quirks) in the game rather than any intended difficulty. For one, elevators stop moving down if they touch you. Second, collision edges on the ground don't extend as far as the visual edges, thus making it easy to fall off an edge by moving too close to it (thinking you have more ground to walk on when you really don't). Third, you can't jump when standing in the same place as a ladder (which happens more often than you might think). You can play around these issues, but they make for a bumpier ride.

Finally, there is a help section in the game for those who have trouble remembering the different gem colors or other rules. And the game is somewhat configurable in the options screen. Control keys can be changed, and music and sound levels can be adjusted. However, screen resolution is not adjustable (the default being 1024x768), and even worse, there is no window mode nor is command-tab available to switch out of full screen mode. For me, that's simply not okay. I don't like games that take over my whole computer screen and don't let go.


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