I went into Planet Crashers expecting an action-oriented game, and was pretty surprised to see that it’s a dungeon crawler. It’s not my favorite genre, but when done well, it can definitely be fun. Thankfully, that’s the case here. The folks at Renegade Kid did a wonderful job making progression something less than a chore, and most parts of the game are executed well. I haven’t played a dungeon crawler with character customization, so right off the bat, I enjoyed being able to do that and taking my custom Ryu-lookalike through the game.
Sadly, while he can’t throw fireballs or do dragon punches, he can attack people with…A BANANA! Don’t worry, you get better gear later, but seriously, starting a game off with a banana makes for a great first weapon. It’s weak, but also absurd, so it works. As one would expect, much of your time is spent going through dungeons, but the overworlds here are pretty unique because it’s all spherical. Moving around them is easy thanks to the Circle Pad, and hopping from one planet to the next reminded me a bit of Super Mario Galaxy.
Being able to accurately move is important in the dungeons, as you can avoid battles by simply evading your enemies — a useful skill if you want to mine the dungeons to stock up on items. That’s something you’ll want to do at least once per dungeon since you don’t reap many rewards doing it too often, and you will want to have a lot of items available in case you need to sacrifice some to escape a battle you simply cannot win. Thankfully, the folks at Renegade Kid have made things easier on the player by giving you little side-quests to complete within each dungeon. It can be as simple as finding an item, or require you to find someone. Either way, it results in a pretty hefty monetary and XP reward and it’s always worth taking on the extra work as long as you don’t go into the dungeon ill-equipped.
Battles are fun for the most part – they have a fast pace to them given the genre, so anyone dreading the idea of having to slog through a dungeon will be happy to know that the pace as a whole is quick. Battles won’t usually take longer than a few minutes, and being able to mash buttons to increase your damage makes them feel more action-oriented (although due to the 3DS’s small size, you’ll want to take frequent breaks since your hands will cramp up doing this on such a small system).
The menu interface takes up the bottom screen, but is somewhat inefficient due to having to use Select to bring it up outside of battles – even though the bottom screen always just shows the menu. What you want to be able to do is just tap on it outside of a battle to make sure you’re equipped for the next battle, b it takes more time than it should to accomplish that simple task. Thankfully, in battles, they’re always visible, but navigating them with the stylus takes more time than just using the Circle Pad and buttons due to the sub-menus. It’s not really a bad setup since it does work, it just doesn’t feel like it’s as smooth as it could be. Thankfully, it doesn’t really hurt the game much since you have plenty of time to take your turn in battle.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything in Planet Crashers looked. For an eShop game, I wasn’t expecting much, but everything looks solid. The character models remind me a lot of the DS version of Animal Crossing, only much smoother and the environments themselves look great too. There’s a healthy amount of detail, and things like 3D lava or any kind of liquid that always looked terribly pixellated on the DS stand out here by actually looking like they should and flow smoothly. The animation is somewhat limited for attacks, but I’m fine with that since I don’t expect RPG-styled games to have great animation. I liked the variety of environments too – going from planet to planet is always fun because you’ll have something new to gawk at. I wish the audio was as good as everything else is though. What you’ll hear as far as the music and sound effects isn’t terrible, it just isn’t very good and will make you reach for the volume rocker to…save on battery life, yeah that’s it. The music is pretty generic happy-go-lucky fare that gets old quickly, and the same holds true for the cartoonish sound effects.
Planet Crashers is a fun, light-hearted dungeon crawler that anyone who likes the genre should buy. At a mere $10, there’s a lot of game to play here and genre fans will easily get that much out of it. It’s so well-done that I’m leaning towards a recommendation even if you don’t like the genre. I think the light-hearted tone and more forgiving gameplay make it a perfect starter dungeon crawler.