(3DS eShop)

Game Review

Dot Runner: Complete Edition Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

On the dot or a runaround?

Dot Runner: Complete Edition is the latest release from Intense, developer of unique DSiWare RPG GO Series: Picdun. This outing shares the dual perspectives of that title but little else; here you collect dots as a futuristic man-on-a-mission named BOLT in a chase puzzler that's fast and fun, but seriously flawed.

While its predecessor Picdun was an RPG with a twist, Dot Runner is purely an action-puzzle game. It does make an unexpectedly persistent attempt at a story, focusing on an underground resistance to the reign of the Yakkini-kus, but it's rather forgettable and definitely not a selling point. Rather, Dot Runner is all about speeding through tight, maze-like levels, grabbing as many dots as you can along the way. The catch is that these dots only appear once you run over certain tiles in the direction indicated by their arrow, giving you four seconds to scoop them up before they disappear forever. By simply stepping on a pad or running over it in any other direction, you can see a preview of where the dots will materialize, which is helpful in planning your attack run.

The stages start out simply, with only dot-spawning directional pads, but quickly fill up with enemies, allies, power ups, doors and switches, and other elements that make the action-puzzle gameplay decidedly more puzzling. Battles with enemies are handled in an RPG-like fashion, in a nod to Dot Runner's spiritual predecessor. The outcome is always predetermined and based on the relative size of your parties. If your group is larger than the enemies', you'll win outright. If you have the same number of combatants in your parties, you'll win but lose an ally. If your group is smaller, or if you're in a one-on-one battle, you'll lose, and restart the stage.

At their most basic, levels can be cleared by activating all the pads that make the dots appear. Collecting every dot will net you more points, but isn't essential. Most levels have additional clear conditions, such as performing a 10-dot combo, collecting every dot in the stage, rescuing allies or defeating certain enemies. It's a nice shake-up to the standard formula and ensures that each stage feels distinct, and the game never descends into dot-devouring drudgery.

The maze-rush gameplay of Dot Runner is a good bit of fun, so it's unfortunate that it's undermined by a few serious problems. First is the fact that while the game takes place from two perspectives simultaneously — in first-person on the top screen and from a bird's eye view on the touch screen — the top screen is underused to the point that it becomes a complete gimmick, rather than a compelling feature. Aside from the fact that the action moves so quickly and in such tight quarters that the first-person view is almost impossible to use effectively at any point, there's the inexplicable problem of nothing in the world actually appearing on the top screen. Except for dots and power-ups, the three-dimensional view of Dot Runner is totally unpopulated: no switches, no allies, no enemies. They're certainly there, and indicated on the top-down view of the touch screen, but there's absolutely no way of knowing in the first-person view. It makes no sense, feels like a huge oversight, and means that you'll invariably spend 99% of your time staring at the bottom screen.

With any action-puzzler tight controls are a must, and unfortunately Dot Runner simply doesn't control as well as it should. The main issue is that BOLT steers like a tank, or a Resident Evil protagonist; instead of pushing the D-Pad left to move left, you always move forward with up and use left and right to turn your character in place. Presumably this is to accommodate the first-person perspective, but since you'll almost never use it, it only makes the top-down gameplay on the touch screen frustratingly clunky. There's a reason Pac-Man doesn't control like this. The shoulder buttons are used to drift (ie turn while moving forward) when you're in motion, or to sidestep when you're not. This should be a saving grace, but in practice drifting is annoyingly oversensitive and often has you inadvertently slamming into walls, losing all momentum and any chance at a run of dots. The control isn't game-breaking and you'll certainly get better at dashing around corners as you play, but it never shakes the feeling of being slightly “off” and can definitely make it more difficult to evade enemies and reach the dots in time. There's also no Circle Pad support, which is an odd omission.

The graphics on the top screen are bright and each world has its own colour scheme, which adds some nice visual variety and only makes it more disappointing that you'll likely spend all of your time looking at the touch screen; the more useful top-down view sports functional but unimpressive graphics. On the menu side, everything is suitably futuristic and well done, with the tethered orbs of the Skillet (dungeon) select screen looking especially slick. The music is standard sci-fi fare and fits without being particularly memorable, while sound effects are few and far between, leaving the experience oddly silent in places you'd expect sound.

Dot Runner saves your high score and fastest time for each stage, and though there's no easy way to view these outside of replaying a level, besting your previous runs can be fun. While there aren't any modes outside of the main game, there are two different scenarios to play through, “Year 3015” and “Year 986”, which each offer a unique take on the story and their own levels. Each scenario contains eight Skillets with five stages apiece, so there are 80 to conquer overall. All the stages within a given Skillet share the same floor plan, but the different clear conditions and objects within each stage keep things feeling fresh. It's quite a bit of content, and while some stages are easier than others, as a package Dot Runner is likely to keep you busy for some time.


Dot Runner is a fun action-puzzle game with some substantial problems that keep it from being all it could have been. The first-person perspective comes off as a forced addition rather than an asset to the gameplay, and actually drags the entire experience down thanks to a resulting control scheme that's more awkward than it should be and falls well short of its full potential. That said, once you get the hang of it, sending BOLT careening around mazes after dots can be satisfying, and the variety of the level objectives keeps things interesting. Dot Runner provides a decent puzzle fix without breaking any molds, but, like BOLT, cuts a lot of corners along the way.

From the web

User Comments (10)



RR529 said:

The RPG element and anime style visuals were what attracted me to PicDun, so I was excited for this, but they pretty much abandoned both for this, so I won't be getting it.

According to you're review, it appears that this game isn't as good as the original either.

If they continue the series, I hope it goes back to it's roots.



Fabian said:

@RR529 If you are interisted in this Game than get it even if the Review sais that it´s very Medicore.Take Robox for example NL gave it a 5 but I downloaded it and it was the second best Wii Ware Game i´ve ever played after Rage of the Gladiator.Trust your feeling about this Game and maybe you´ll find it alot better than the Reviewer
Sorry for my bad English



WiiLovePeace said:

I'm gonna get this just because of the trailer, when they release it in my region anyway. I'm pretty flexible with control schemes so I think I can handle this game's supposed awkward control scheme. & I love games with a lot of content & this one seems like it has it in spades



accc said:

I don't get the reviewer's complaint about the controls. Does he think that the game should only let you move laterally, and that turning should have been left out all together? If that was the case, it would make it impossible to run over the switches while facing a certain direction, which would eliminate a major strategic element from the gameplay. Or does he think that the d-pad should have been used for lateral movement and the shoulder buttons for turning? I don't see how that would've made any difference.

Also, the game contains 100 levels, not 80 like the review says.



Birdman said:

Eh, doesn't sound like something for me. I think I'll spend my money elsewhere on the eShop...



zipmon said:

@WiiLovePeace Good! If it looks like you'd enjoy it, you probably will - I'm having fun with it! =) Like I mentioned in the review, the controls are definitely something you get used to, I just thought they could have been better from the start.

@accc Exactly - this might be my own quirk, but I find it conceptually odd to control a human character (or anything besides a tank, really) with these stop-and-turn controls, especially from a top-down perspective. Since turning to trigger the dot switch clues (as you said, very important!) is usually performed under less duress than the time-restricted dot runs, I think it would have made more sense to make rotating in place a 'secondary' move on the shoulder buttons, and have the D-Pad just whip BOLT around the maze ala Pac-Man, Bomberman, etc.

It wouldn't have been an issue for me if drifting with the shoulder buttons was on point, but it felt a bit off - like you have to tap L or R before you actually come to the turn - so sometimes I felt like I was fighting with the controls more than with the level itself. Again, just my feeling, and your mileage may vary! =)



LittleIrves said:

Weird, that the DSiWare game PicDun and this, its more advanced "spiritual successor," are both the same price. Also weird, that I'm likely to choose the DSi game since it looks much more appealing to me.



EaZy_T said:

6/10 is just about right.
The controls take some time to get used to and you can't use the circle pad.
Decent graphics and fast gameplay.
Loads of levels.

I actually picked up some hints for playing the game from the review, I was really just playing on the top screen.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...