GO Series: Picdun Review
Posted by Marcel van Duyn
First person picture puzzler
In the 8- and 16-bit eras, there were quite a few games that featured first-person dungeon crawling. Looking through your character's eyes, you had to navigate a maze by moving forward one square at a time, possibly also having to collect treasures and fight monsters along the way. Games like The Legend of the Mystical Ninja and Fester's Quest only featured this in certain segments, but other games, such as Swords and Serpents, were completely focused on it.
In more recent years we haven't really seen this in any games, but the latest GO Series game, Picdun — short for PICture DUNgeon — brings it back in full force. As an adventurer lost in a dungeon, you've got to make your way through a ton of floors to escape, with a small catch: each floor is shaped like a certain object, and you'll have to discover what it is. With all the action handily taking place on the bottom screen and the map being displayed on the top screen, you can gradually see each floor start to take form, and once you've stood on every single square on a floor, you can proceed to the exit and will learn what that floor's shape was supposed to represent, in a manner not unlike that in Nintendo's Picross.
You can of course simply proceed to the next floor if you find the way down early, but a floor will not count as completed until you step on every single square. Every five floors, you'll also encounter an elevator, allowing you to go five floors back up.
But of course, no dungeon is complete without monsters, puzzles and treasures, so you'll have to deal with each of those as well. The monsters have to be defeated in a first-person battle by attacking them with your stylus; you can also hit the D-Pad or touch a shield in the lower left-hand corner to defend yourself against their attacks, with well-timed blocks even counter-attacking them and usually instantly killing them. This isn't as basic as you'd think, as enemies will frequently block as well, and some may even have a weak point or require a different type of slash to deal more damage. Defeating monsters even gets you experience points, increasing your health and strength so you can tackle the stronger monsters further down a bit more easily.
There are almost no puzzles at the start, but as you go further in you'll find more and more, containing conveyor belts, icy floors, switches, pits, hidden passages and more. Each floor also has numerous cryptic messages scattered around, which are worth your time to read. Some simply give you gameplay tips or tell you a story, but others contain vital clues on reaching that floor's exit, or may even point you in the direction of better equipment, which can not always be found by simply standing on every square.
With 11 extra swords and two shields to find, there are quite a few things hidden around. Each floor also contains a generally easy to find pedometer, which allows you to see how many squares on that floor you have not stood on yet, as well as a fountain to restore your health, and later on, even allows you to take some with you for use in battle.
The most surprising factor when compared to the rest of the games in the GO Series is the length of playtime: we've spent a long time with the game so far, but we're still currently only around floor 35, with no end in sight yet. We assume there are at least 60 levels judging by the official screens, but there may even be more. Unsurprisingly, this means that it's one of the few GO Series games that costs 500 DSi Points, but every one of those points is worth it.
The graphics are also noticeably a bit more advanced than other games in the series, with the entire dungeon being in full 3D and the enemies all being 2D but very well animated. Every ten floors, you'll enter a new environment, so things will stay fresh. The music is fairly catchy, but it plays constantly, even during battles with a few less instruments, so you may find yourself growing tired of it. Luckily, it also changes every ten floors together with the environment.
Picdun is an odd mix of genres, but it works surprisingly well. The game has a great difficulty curve, with each floor getting progessively harder, but never frustratingly hard due to the ability to save at any time and a full health restoration always being nearby. When you start out you'll think, like most GO Series games, it'll only last a few hours, but don't be fooled: this one's longer than any of them and could potentially keep you busy for weeks.