In this era of gaming, there is a tendency to look back into the classical age. Okay, so I coined that myself, but the classical age is simply when everything was simple to understand and still fun. There is even a point in the timeline where everything changed. It’s clear and defined. With the invention of polygons came the invention of storylined plot, side game options, you name it. With 3D came the potential for big worlds. Therefore it completely bypassed the teething phase where polygons and classic 2D overview. 3D Dot Game Heroes aim is essentially to bridge this gap, and prove that it was a good idea, whilst giving a customisable interface to create your own avatar. But is this a bright idea, or the reason why the changes the polygon format brought did so well?

The kingdom of Dotnia was once saved from the Dark Lord by a mysterious hero. Shortly after his victory he sealed his sword in a magical forest and disappeared. Fortunately for the kingdom, it prospered for many years after the event. Time has now passed, and Dotnia’s tourism has been dwindling for some time now. The king decrees that a change of perspective is required for tourism to improve, so he gives the order to convert the world into 3D. Tourism once again prospered, but the return of the Dark Lord requires a new hero to emerge. Nothing really special to be honest, but the perspective explanation deserved a chuckle. There are many villagers who will parody text from old school 2D RPGs, and others who complain about the new perspective’s inconveniences.

But before your adventure really starts, you get the option to make your own character. In two dimensions, you only needed to design the character using a series of dots (pixels), each showing colours to make it look like a person/monster. This logic is largely true here; except in 3D. While the game doesn’t give you a clear indication of how to use the system, the samples programmed into the game do assist a fair bit along the way as they provide a useful template to fall back upon if you’re having a creative crisis. Unfortunately, controlling the cursor to edit certain pixels is a little cumbersome due to the fact you have that third dimension to worry about: the one that makes the difference between a paper doll and a fat tub of lard. Once you do get used to it however, creation is pretty simple as colours are allocated to slots and are able to be changed all at once on the fly. The poses are limited, but given the heritage of the style of game this is fairly appropriate and indeed keeps things from getting more intimidating than an airplane control system. Still, the sword power at full health is insane. You can buy upgrades to your sword at the blacksmiths, alongside sub weapons and items, but the sword upgrades can extend the length and width of the sword; even the ability to pierce through walls and shoot a laser from your sword. If it wasn’t for the simple fact that this breaks the game until you get hit, then I’d welcome this option with open arms.

If initially starting this adventure you create a green robed man with blonde hair that looked a wee bit elfish, then you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a very familiar adventure. It even comes complete with an annoying fairy, big sword and dungeons. There are six mystical orbs that are hidden in the aforementioned dungeons, with plenty of monsters and traps and a boss to separate you and the orb. This game is a parody of its inspiration however due to some of the mechanics and dialogue, notably in the side quests. There is one instance where a man will be complaining about water. It is only when you return that he was merely complaining about the state of the water and felt that water from foreign lands cleans clothes better. He then jabs you with a sarcastic comment of “you thought I was dying of thirst?”

Unfortunately though, not even humour and a rather expansive array of special features and quests can save this experiment. The gameplay is basic to say the least, and while the solution for sword upgrades is novel, it merely breaks what could have been a challenging game. The customisation options are a nice touch and help the game feel more unique. Artistically, polygon pixels look good to an extent, but the actual physics feel just too rigid. It’s like looking at a pre-Atari game in terms of how fast things move. Even The Legend of Zelda for the NES was more fluid looking. As an experiment it has proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt, which is good because every experiment requires a conclusion. 3D Dot Game Heroes has indeed made a decisive case for the argument that polygons and 2D planes don’t always mix well.