Review: Dungeon Twister (PS3)

5 mins read

The name, ‘Dungeon Twister’ is a touch deceptive. It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Twister, the game that has been giving teenagers a legitimate excuse to bump and grind with one another for years now. Rather, it’s a new kind of board game, and the physical version is proving to be quite popular.

I suspect the digital version will not, however. In fact, I have to wonder why the physical board game has become so popular. At a time where the trend is for board games to be indirectly competitive and offer simple rulesets so that everyone can play, Dungeon Twister is a needlessly complex game. Having been entertained by the sheer elegance of games like Puerto Rico and the Dungeons and Dragons board games, this is disappointing.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Dungeon Twister, for those who haven’t experienced it before, is a glorified take on Chinese Checkers. With combat. The game kicks off with a couple of unique characters on either side of a playing field that is made up of pits and passages (ie, a ‘dungeon’). The goal of the game is to accumulate points by either reaching the other end of the playing field, or defeating the opponent’s characters.

Each character has his/ her own special abilities. The goblin, for instance, is weak, but worth twice as many points if he reaches the other end of the playing field. Another character can walk through walls. There’s a combat specialist, and a wizard. It’s a rag-tag band of special abilities, and although the characters can team up to tackle an enemy together, the unfortunate fact is that these heroes don’t necessarily work so well together – the game is more about controlling a handful of individuals than a cohesive team.

Movement and combat plays out quite simply – through the use of cards. At the start of each turn you’ll pick a numbered card that will give you a corresponding number of actions – movement, attacking, special abilities – for that turn. Combat works a similar way – each character has a base attack rating, and then you’ll pick a card with a “+X” number to add to that rating. The player with the highest combined total wins the combat.

The cards are where the bulk of the game’s strategy lies, as they’re a precious resource and once they’re used, they’re gone. In the case of the “action” cards you’ll get them all back once you use your existing hand, but in the case of the combat cards, once they’re gone they’re gone for good. In other words, picking the right time to use the valuable cards is critical to success in this game.

If this all sounds a touch on the complex side, that’s because it is – Dungeon Twister has a tutorial mode that contains no fewer than 20 missions. While I would suggest those are necessary to learn how to play the game, the fact that it’s possible to fail the missions while you learn the ropes of the game, and the fact that even if you don’t fail you’re looking at a solid hour or two to work through all those missions means this is a very, very slow game to get going.

Once you’re comfortable with the game’s systems, there’s a decent bit of fun there. There’s online play to compensate for the rather predictable AI, and the game isn’t unattractive. But there’s a fundamental problem with this game that I just can’t resolve – it’s an old-school board game. After enjoying the elegant simplicity of the Eurogames, I just can’t resolve the old-style approaches any longer. The system is clunky and for those 20 tutorial missions, the strategy is very straightforward.

I’ve got to say that I’m disappointed. There are hundreds of board games that would have made better PSN releases than Dungeon Twister. There’s nothing broken about the game, it’s just that it’s not a very compelling game in the first place.

– Matt S

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  • Its all matter of tastes, I on the other hand like more complex games and I think this one is quite well thought of.

    The game is not the easiest one to learn, but once you understand the rules it can be realy enjoyable.

    You have to plan ahead and use different characters to their strenghts. Rotating rooms is a very important part of this game, it opens paths, shift items and other characters, spoil your oponents plans, you can turn the tile you are standing on or the room that is the same colour, so there is a lot of tactics in how you place your characters because it can all change.

    There is almost no luck in this game. Cards work wonderfully, there is bluffing in combat because there is a card with "0" value and this one is not discarded, so if you use more better cards in the beginning you will be weaker later on.

    Each characters have their unique skills that helps them go thru the maze, some can go over pits, some can open doors, some go thru walls etc. Items are designed to help fill the blanks in skills of some characters. Most characters have skills that are beneficial to other so its good to stick together.

    Its like solving a puzzle to get across the maze and when you thought you will reach the destination suddenly your enemy turn the rooms and everything goes out of the window 😀

    PS. Problem with modern games I've noticed? they are too easy, and most of them are not balanced well, no bad dice roll will ever spoil your game, and both teams have equal chances to win. For me it is worth those 2 hours initialy spent to learn the rules and tutorial does it nicely introducing one rule after another.

    If you enjoy games like chess this one could work for you.

  • Pablo – Thanks for dropping by and your input!

    I agree with a lot of what you've said. Our point of difference is that I've played games like Puerto Rico and Catan that have simple rulesets, but are very complex underneath that surface.

    Dungeon Twister is the opposite – it's a complex ruleset, but the game itself is very simple, imo.

    But glad you enjoy it – perhaps we'll play online in the future! 🙂

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