Intelligence, knowledge, wit...these are all things that many gamers would like to be able to attach to their personalities, and many of them are able to do so with complete justification. However, there's the occasional item in the world that would like to try and convince the universe otherwise. One of those items would be Doodle Hex, the latest game to be released by Tragnarion Studios.
Doodle Hex is based around a magical school were there are various students all learning how to be Wizards, Witches, or Mages. The school holds a dark secret, and that secret is that many of the teachers each hold a part of a magical rune that will allow the gathering of incredible powers. Unfortunately, the player manages to upset a teacher, and this teacher then goes and pushes the player into battling against the other teachers who control the power of the Rune pieces.
Whilst battling to gain the other parts of this rune, the player will gain more magical abilities. This is done by an extensive repertoire of ancient spells called Runes. Each Rune has a different power: some are for attack and, naturally, some are for defence. When combined, various runes can affect the enemy in various ways, not always just by hurting them, either - the correct combination will actually lead them to not being able to cast a Rune.
Runes are drawn with the Nintendo DS Stylus on the Touch Screen. There are many, many different shapes to remember, so, fortunately, all around the battle screen there are pictures of the Runes that the player has collected. Unfortunately, these pictures are not prompts for the combination attacks that actually deliver the powerful blows to the foes.
The recognition of the Runes is first class. When drawing the Runes in a rush on the stylus, as long as they are close to the actual shape the player is after, all is fine, as the system automatically recognises what it should be. However, this system is not fool proof and on various occasions a Rune entirely different to the one that was required was cast due to a mix of poor drawing skills at speed -- as well as the system's picture recognition.
Speaking of which, being able to draw at a very high speed will make this game much easier for everyone. On the early levels it's fine to try and draw perfect Runes, as the game advises; however, even towards the later part of the early stage of the game speed becomes very important. This is due to the fact that enemies have more advanced magical abilities than the player, and because combination attacks need to be timed just right.
Fortunately, the Single Player mode is really where this area is important, as the opponents are heart-breakingly difficult at times, verging on Gargantuan at others. When playing the Multiplayer mode, this allows players to battle against humans, who, unlike AI, have flaws. These flaws make the game much easier to play through, and won't require the stress of turning the game off after loosing; to simply turn it straight back on again.
In terms of presentation, Doodle Hex is clearly influenced by the very popular and increasingly common anime genre, and whilst this is a western developed game, it's tipping its hat to various anime and Avatar styling. This is no bad thing, either, as it suits the game very well; that said, a more traditionally magical world would have worked just as well. At all times the game is vibrant and bold, with great and unique character designs and decent backgrounds to each duel.
Musically, there's a tiny amount of voice acting advising whether the player has lost or won, but most of the time it's various compositions from various composers. The music is crystal clear and suits the atmosphere of the title.
Final Verdict - 8/10
For many players, the fact that the incredibly simple premise of drawing is entirely tainted by the need to spend many hours on the game may be off putting. However, for those people who have the time to put more than seven to ten hours into a game, Doodle Hex is incredibly rewarding. With a rich and fulfilling battle system, and an interesting (albeit slightly contrived) storyline, is entertaining. This title is a must for all fans of anything challenging or difficult.