I must admit, I am a Puzzle Quest addict. The simple combination of a match-three system and role-playing game had me hooked, while also sparking a new genre. There have been many titles with the same premise released over the past few years. I have enjoyed many of them, and I can safely say that the most recent addition to the sub-genre is my favorite. Take the simplistic nature of the match-three system, add some roguelike elements, and toss in some frantic action and that’s the recipe for Cube Roots’ Dungeon Hearts.
Four party members take on enemies through a series of Bejeweled-type battles. After a fight, a new board appears for a short period of time. This serves as a way to level up party members. Matching the correct color gem to two others will level up the corresponding character.
Dungeon Hearts features a highway board similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Colored gems scroll from right to left, with each representing a party member: red for the warrior, yellow for the mage, blue for the healer and green for the ranger. Players can maneuver gems around so that three of the same colors are touching each other. Clicking on one of the gems will fuse the three together to create a diamond, which represents an attack. This also destroys any enemy gems like-colored crystals in that row and column. Diamonds will also destroy other diamonds in the same row and column. This is where setting up big combos comes into play. The more gems that are destroyed at one time, the bigger the damage output. Having every party member attack at the same time can put a serious hurt on a baddie.
The enemy’s attacks are represented by skulls that move towards the party members. If one reaches the end of the board, the character on that row will be hit. There are also status effects (bleeding, weaking, etc.) that can hinder party members as well. Detonating an attack diamond will destroy enemy attack and status effect gems on the same row or column.
The characters have special abilities that unlock at certain levels. Depending on the character, these may damage the enemy, heal the party, slow down the gem board or do many other helpful things. These really came in handy during a boss fight when things got really hectic.
The game is a very fast-paced, quick thinking challenge. One wrong move and a party member may kick the bucket. Luckily, after a fight, status effects wear off if they haven’t already. The boss fights had me frantically trying to stop enemy gems from hitting my party while trying to create a damaging combo.
The big kicker is that there is no progression in the game. When the party dies, it’s game over. There is no “return to last checkpoint” or any type of saving ability. This is where the roguelike elements come into play. When beginning a new game, the party begins at level one again, and all the abilities that may have been unlocked are now locked. There may be a slight change up in the enemies fought, but for the most part, each time the game starts, everyone starts out fresh. This may upset some players, and even I was devastated on a few occasions when I made it very far and had to start all over because I made one grave mistake.
I love the look and feel of the game. The characters and models give off a cartoony feel, and the music is amazing. The original soundtrack really makes the game shine, especially thanks to the epic boss battle music. The tunes can be unlocked just by playing the game, which is a great bonus.
For such a simplistic game, I’m amazed at how deep it can be. Creating a damaging combo made me feel like a puzzle master, and harsh defeat broke my heart every time. I really enjoyed everything about Dungeon Hearts. The game play is tight, the presentation is great and the soundtrack is stellar. I can not recommend this game enough. If you have a PC that can run practically anything, and you enjoy great puzzles games, this needs to be added to your library.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.