Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Dream Trigger 3D


One of the earlier 3DS releases, Dream Trigger 3D was likely passed over by many due to its relatively simplistic two-dimensional graphics when most were eager to see what the system's 3D capabilities were like. Initial reactions were polarized, with one end of the spectrum claiming it's simply too difficult a game. Far from a nightmare, Dream Trigger 3D is actually pretty fun after grasping the mechanics.

Title screen. New Game. Tutorial? Nah, I'm sure I can figure it out. Level 1, here we go. Dead. That was fast. Let's try that again... dead. After nearly ten iterations of this cycle, the mechanics suddenly “clicked.” The game instantly shifted from a nightmare to a daydream, and I say daydream because it felt a little too easy. I died nearly ten times between the first two levels, but after that, I can count the number of deaths among the next 30+ levels on a rat's four-fingered hand. I was beginning to feel a little disappointed. After all I'd heard about the game, I was looking forward to a more drawn out ass-kicking. Then I remembered the trailer, which highlighted the goal of turning chaos into art, referring to the level environments. I had been playing for at least a couple of hours and had not yet managed to accomplish this because my scores were too low. I was playing merely to survive each level, haphazardly placing sonar pings on the lower panel instead of going for precision.
Touching the grid on the bottom screen will place sonar pings. Once the rhythm bar sweeps across the grid (just like in Lumines), the pings burst and reveal any enemies caught within their radius. These enemies move along the top screen, fading in and out of vision as vague white orbs while appearing as a constant purple marker on the bottom screen's radar. They will shoot while invisible, but can only be destroyed once uncovered, so staying focused on the top screen is a necessity, which isn't very difficult as peripheral vision is more than enough to keep tabs on the bottom screen. The tricky part is predicting when the rhythm bar will activate the pings and placing them accordingly. Players can afford to be a little sloppy though, as there can be as many as sixteen pings on-screen at any time (unless fighting against a tracker, but I'll get to those bastards later). The circle pad controls the reticle on the top screen, which takes damage if hit by enemy fire, but not by enemies themselves. The L button will fire to the reticle, instantly killing all enemies and bullets that come into contact with the red glow of the blast radius. Alternatively, the very edge of the bottom screen can be touched to fire, which seems unnecessary. The circle pad is used to move, so there isn't any reason not to have the index sitting on the L button. Often times, I found myself accidentally firing while placing sonar pings, depleting the limited weapon gauge, which can be refilled by pinging enemies.
Common these days are the games that integrate music into the gameplay. Dream Trigger does this a little more subtly than most, with the music growing more intense as large amounts of points are scored in quick succession. Setting off pings also creates a melody that fits in nicely with the rest of the sounds. The only way to score large amounts of points is to ping large groups of enemies at once. Doing this while the weapon meter is close to full will cause it to become supercharged, briefly granting infinite firepower, meaning invincibility as long as the fire button is held down. This can also be accomplished by obtaining a red gem, which is one of the four powerups, and lasts significantly longer. The purple gem increases the blast radius of the weapon, and the yellow gems replenish one of the four orbs surrounding the reticle, indicating how many hits can be sustained before losing. Powerups appear at a rate of about one per second, with the majority being blue gems that award 100 points.
The end of each level throws a mini-boss at the player. These larger enemies ooze bullets and summon the smaller variety faced throughout the level as they move around. To defeat a mini-boss, its mask/shield must first be cracked by pinging the hell out of it. With the black abomination exposed, its movement becomes frantic. After twenty seconds or so, the shield returns and has to be broken again. Many of the earlier mini-bosses can be defeated before this happens.

The world map system in Dream Trigger uses an inter-connected web of nodes navigable by spending one DP or “Dream Point” per move, which are awarded at a rate of one per 10,000 points at the end of each level. Levels are worth replaying not only for a higher score, but to complete the game's many challenges, which range from defeating a certain amount of enemies to plugging in headphones to collecting every other point gem, and more. As more challenges are completed (marked as stars around the level nodes), more levels are revealed. There are heavy psychological overtones most noticeable in the level types and ranks. Infinity, Divinity, and Purity are a few of the types, and Lucidity, Tranquility, and Anxiety are examples of rank. 
FUCK YES. A tracker just appeared as I finished the previous paragraph and I beat it for the first time. They are merciless, limiting pings to just three and hit points to one. Losing against a tracker will strip the player of all DP, which is just plain not nice. These things have a mind of their own too; they don't move one space as the player does, but instead move as time passes. Alright, so I killed it and unlocked a few more challenges, which unlocked a couple more levels, expanding the web closer to the boss level nodes which are visible from the start. Boss type levels are just like any other, but with one of many giant faces shooting massive projectiles at the player safely from the background and occasionally surfacing to expose itself. They have multiple health bars and won't go down easily. In these levels, the usually relatively mellow trance music heard throughout the rest of the game turns frantic, and instills a sense of I'M SCREWED, which is what I think they were going for.

There are over fifty levels in the game, and after an estimated ten hours of play, I still haven't seen them all. The game is packed with single player content, but also features a multiplayer mode in which you fight directly with your opponents reticle. I haven't had the chance to try this out yet, but it seems like it would be a lot of fun, and I was glad to see a true versus mode instead of something like in Space Invaders Extreme where players indirectly battle with one another by sending over waves of invaders.
Launching with a thirty dollar price tag, Dream Trigger has since plummeted in price, and it feels like it will turn out to be one of the inexpensive gems in the 3DS library, but it's not a perfect game. Navigating the map can be a little tedious because it only allows the player to move one space at a time. How difficult can it be to program a function that calculates the shortest route from point A to B? In any case, this is minor and doesn't really detract from the enjoyment. Fans of arcade-style games will feel right at home here. The 3D effect is implemented beautifully too, especially when compared to something like BlazBlue on the 3DS, which just looks messy and strains the eyes.

Find Dream Trigger 3D on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2011-03-10
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Developer: Art Co. 

1 comments:

I really like 3D games, and Dream Trigger 3D is a nice one.
Thanks for reviewing it!

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