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Game Review

Picdun 2: Witch's Curse Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Dungeons & Drawings

As a part of INTENSE CO's GO series, the original Picdun brought a unique take on first-person dungeon crawling to DSiWare. A portmanteau of the words "Picture" and "Dungeon", the game turned the genre's traditional map into a pixel art canvas, where players would fill in a picture as they explored their environment. Picdun 2: Witch's Curse keeps this same basic formula and adds an interesting partner battle system, and while not much else has changed from the first go, it's still a fun, accessible adventure that's well worth playing for dungeon crawling and puzzle fans alike.

The heart of most dungeon crawlers lies in character customization, grinding, and tactical turn-based battling, but Picdun 2 forgoes these aspects almost entirely. Instead, the focus is on thorough exploration and light puzzling. As you traverse the game's 60 mazes, the auto-map on the bottom screen fills in each tile of the dungeon you pass over. Your goal is to hit every single square on the floor - once you do, the tiles turn into pixels in a colourful, animated sprite based on the shape of the level.

These pixel-pictures represent animals, food, tools, symbols, and more, and while floors start out simply, plenty of puzzles quickly make things more interesting. You'll find hidden doors, switches, teleporters, moving barriers, one-way tiles, and icy floors straight out of the Mahogany Town Gym, among many other obstacles. Picking up the "pedometer" on each floor will let you know how many spaces still remain before the picture's filled out, and hints throughout the levels can help you guess the design ahead of time - if you know you're trying to draw an apple, for instance, you might realize that the tiles you're missing come from an unexplored stem.

You'll come across more than a few worms during your apple explorations; there are plenty of monsters wandering around, and Picdun 2 features a simple but very enjoyable real-time battle system that lets you take them on in style. One of the biggest additions to Picdun 2's combat is the partner system. Rendered unable to attack by a curse early on, our hero is quickly relegated to defensive duty, and has to rely on three partners to fight for him: the Archer, the Whipper, and the Spellcaster. These three warriors, who share an inexplicable fondness for both the game's faceless protagonist and wildly ineffective battle armor, each wield a different weapon type, and you can swap between them at designated areas.

There are three options for attacking: a vertical chop that targets a single enemy, a horizontal slash that hits the whole row, and a power move that deals massive damage to everything on screen. To perform a power move, you'll need to block an enemy attack with your shield just before it connects - if you time it right, a string of button commands will appear on screen, and completing the sequence quickly will unleash a volley of arrows, whips, or magic. Each partner excels at a different attack: the Archer is best at targeting single enemies, the Whipper shines with sideways swipes, and though the Spellcaster has the weakest normal attacks, her spectacular power moves are the best of the bunch.

Picdun 2's combat system is easily one of its best features. It's fun, fast, and very hands-on - miles away from the turn-based menu-slogs common in dungeon crawlers. And though it can't match titles like Unchained Blades or Etrian Odyssey for depth, there's still room for some strategy: do you strike with a volley of normal attacks, or shield yourself and try for a power move? Every enemy type has a different attack pattern, so learning how to time power moves for each animation is essential. You'll also be able to upgrade both your shield and your partners' weapons as you find new equipment in the dungeons, and gain experience as you battle to level up.

Unlike its DSiWare predecessor, the stylus plays no part in Picdun 2, and combat as well as movement is handled with the 3DS' buttons. Everything works well, but the lack of Circle Pad support is puzzling, as is the mapping of the attack buttons. The A and X buttons perform a horizontal strike, while the B and Y buttons handle vertical attacks - it's certainly functional, but we struggled to overcome a logical preference for associating X and B with the vertical axis and Y and A with the horizontal.

First-person dungeon crawlers can be a notoriously difficult genre for newcomers to crack, but to its credit, Picdun 2 is a remarkably accessible experience. The combat system is easy to understand, the difficulty curve is perfectly smooth, character progression is linear and automatic, and the only stat you'll ever have to worry about is your health. Judiciously placed healing fountains and the ability to save anywhere outside of battle also help, and an option to restart any floor from the beginning means you won't be able to save yourself into a corner. And while a level won't be marked as 'complete' until the entire picture is mapped out, you're still free to advance to the next floor as soon as you find the stairwell, so it's possible to skip any particularly difficult puzzles if you're ready to move on.

One notable omission in Picdun 2 is an easy way to go back to previously completed floors. There are elevators in certain levels that can take you back, but a simple level select menu from the title screen would have been a welcome addition for when you just want to re-map out a pixelated potato. Similarly, it would be nice to be able to view completed pictures in a gallery - as it stands, the only time you get to see the low-fi fruits of your labour is in the few brief seconds after finishing a level.

Much like its stylish pixel art, Picdun 2 looks good even if it doesn't impress on a technical level - it's more of a subtle evolution than a radical improvement from the series' DSiWare days. The animated enemy designs are cartoony and fun, and the two-dimensional artwork works well with the 3D backgrounds. The music is jazzy, catchy, upbeat, and - unfortunately - incredibly repetitive. That problem isn't restricted to the audio side of the package either. With tile after indistinguishable tile of dungeon paths, relatively few enemy types, and one unchanging character portrait per partner, Picdun 2's entire presentation suffers heavily from repetition. The visual theme and background music change every ten floors, but that still feels like too long to be looking down identical hallways, listening to the same minute-long music loops.

Conclusion

A lighthearted dungeon crawler with an original hook, Picdun 2: Witch's Curse is as intuitive an introduction as you could hope for to the genre. Engaging real-time combat and a smooth difficulty curve make it easy to jump into, and its pixel art trappings give it a cheery personality. Hardcore dungeon devotees looking for character customization and deep mechanics won't find much here, but anyone after some light puzzling and a fresh, simplified take on the classic crawling formula would do well to pick up Picdun 2.

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User Comments (38)

Squashie

#1

Squashie said:

I quite liked the original, but it got a bit tiresome after time. I may get this when it comes to Europe, or I may skip. Otherwise, a great review! :)

Pikachupwnage

#2

Pikachupwnage said:

I have been waiting for SOMEONE to review this.

Couldn't find any reviews on this...wish some of the big sites took more time to review smaller digital games like you guys do....

Anyways good review. Going to pick this one up sometime. Not now though. Still additcted to fire emblem and march is packed what with my copy of etrain oddesy IV arriving in early march and monster hunter/mystery dungeon/luigis mansion all hitting as well.

chewytapeworm

#3

chewytapeworm said:

I might surrender and buy this. Not only because it looks good, but also because PicDun is a humerous spoonerism.

BakaKnight

#5

BakaKnight said:

Interesting review :)
I must admit that I was expecting this sequel to not upgrade much the original game, but I'm surprised by few of the changes... almost make me feel like this game could be a little worse than the original.

Anyway I'm still planning to buy it when it will arrive in Europe. I liked the first too much for not give the second a chance!

RR529

#6

RR529 said:

I agree with the score. My only complaint, is that every once in awhile the puzzles seem a bit obscure (currently stuck on floor 42).

Superconsole

#7

Superconsole said:

Morgan, I'm starting to get the impression you have a bit of a soft spot for cute, chibi-style witch dominated games.... ;D Great review as always!

Geonjaha

#8

Geonjaha said:

Of course everything the characters say has to have some sort of sexual connotation. Why exactly is that girl resting her hands on her breasts?

RR529

#10

RR529 said:

Still, does anyone know how to complete 42? I just keep going around in circles. Which way you're facing when you warp depends on where you go, and there's not a direction for any warp tile I haven't tried yet (I've even written them down), but I keep getting sent to places I've been to before, with nothing opening up :/

The "hint" signs are no help either, because they all say "Which way were you facing when you warped?", hinting at what I've figured out hours ago...

SMEXIZELDAMAN

#11

SMEXIZELDAMAN said:

Buying it for the boobs.
Also call dibs on the female in the middle with blonde hair, whatever her name is :* :* :* :*

Drobotic

#15

Drobotic said:

They should just call this Picdun 2:The game you buy just to look at girls grabbing their boobs. :D

Tabbydasher

#16

Tabbydasher said:

This is much more fun and engaging than the original game. I got bored and frustrated with the first DSi game after a couple hours, but this one is a lot more addictive. It's not as frustrating as the original, either (at least so far. I'm only half as far as RR529.) It's got a fun, irreverent sense of humor that pokes fun at dungeon-crawler tropes and it casts the player as a sort of hopeless wannabe lady's man. the pictures of the NPC companions seem to be an over-the-top parody of the absurd hyper-sexuality of the female characters that you sometimes see in such dungeon-crawlers. There are a lot of things that could have been done to make this game deeper and better (like spend a couple more days creating some more monsters or music tracks, for instance...) but it's a lot of fun nonetheless, and it's a fair price.

Taya

#19

Taya said:

Urrggh is it really necessarily to have a cute dungeon crawling puzzle game feature giant tits? Is this really the type of game that men play to get off?

JMDS

#20

JMDS said:

I'm always kind of put off my games that blatantly use sex to help sales. It's distracting, tasteless, and in this form pathetically self-validating. Too bad, the rest of the game seems legitimately interesting. I WANT to play this game, but I don't want it to try way so hard to make me some stuttering weeaboo thinking "aw yeah, this girl totally wants my D."

RR529

#21

RR529 said:

Don't get me wrong, the character designs in the game are ludicrous, but I want to ask, what makes this game particularly worthy of attack?

It's certainly not the only (or worst) game to have this issue, and there are much more well known (and influencial) games, like DOA, KoF (Mai), FFX (Lulu), ect., that are just as bad (and definitely worse in some cases) in this regard, but seem to get little more than light hearted jabs.

Again, I'm not saying this game is justified in it's design, but it seems odd to target this game, when there are much more influencial titles that do the same thing, & yet don't get the social commentary.

JMDS

#22

JMDS said:

@RR529 Well, you're assuming that the people with complaints don't have the same disposition towards other games, first off.

Also, I think that the focus on these specific characters and how they interact with you in this game extenuates the problem more-so here than in something like DoA. In DoA, the sexualization, to me at least, doesn't appear to be as blatant. Though they are indeed blatant in DoA. Also in DoA, the characters don't pander to a specific character you're playing the direct role of in a sexual way at all. When I win a fight with Kasumi, she doesn't grab her boobs, look at the camera and say "wow, you're soo strooong", she says something like "I fought with honor! I'm awesome!"

So yeah. I think it's different here.

RR529

#23

RR529 said:

^Yeah, that makes sense. I just don't want people to skip over a potentially good game (and the review points out that this is), just because the dev made a poor choice in character design.

Personally, I for one got it because I enjoy RPGs, and while it's no Crimson Shroud or Denpa Men, it's still a fun little eShop RPG worth the price for fans of the genré.

JMDS

#24

JMDS said:

@RR529 The gameplay sounds pretty inviting. I've had a hard time getting into this genre in the past, and this seems like a somewhat accessible title. To be honest, I haven't completely put it out of my potential purchases. Just wish the story-based aspects were a bit more compelling and less...well...you know :P

RantingThespian

#26

RantingThespian said:

@Taya If anyone buys games like these to "get off", they really have no life what-so-ever . . . and don't have access to the internet.

kurtasbestos

#27

kurtasbestos said:

@Tabbydasher, I appreciate that you considered the characters to be an exaggeration of similar characters in, well, pretty much every other game ever made, rather than immediately complaining about how sexist their designs are. Plus, you sound like you actually played the game and know what you're talking about. The puzzles got too frustrating in the first game for me to finish it (plus I get carsick playing it on the train), but I really liked the game, and when I finally get around to buying a 3DS I'm going to be downloading this game.

To the people complaining about the character design... before picking apart a game like this, please consider how terrible character design in games is in general. Also, everything that @RR529 said.

Windy

#28

Windy said:

I really like how Picdun 2 throws you into the game quickly. It has a fast Battle system. I would call this game an Arcade RPG(if there could ever be such a thing LOL) with puzzle elements which make for a fast type of play. More companies should take a look at this and tweak it and they may just come up with something really cool! This game is already cool whynot?

Try to get by the half naked anime girls although they are in your face alot. I would say that yes it was pretty tasteless to add them into the game instead of a cool looking archer, Whip and magician. Maybe next time that's what the developer will do. I hope so. I like the game but the characters take the game down 1 point for me and I would also give the game a strong 7. Great Review and thanks again for doing what you guys do.

Currently on floor 25.

Windy

#31

Windy said:

@KnightRider666 Awesome! its a great bargain game. fun as hell gameplay. I might not be saying that when I get to where RR is..im only on 25 but have enjoyed it alot so far.

Dont kill me guys but I like it more than the Etrian Odyssey demo. Im sorry but the amount of customization in Etrian Odyssey is mind boggling and gives me a headache. I prefer this simplistic approach. gosh Etrian Odyssey can suck up hours before you even hit a dungeon. just throw me in the middle! If Shining in the darkness is ever remade for 3ds im on it :) that would be the perfect dungeon Crawler

KnightRider666

#32

KnightRider666 said:

@Windy: I totally agree. I hate the "do it yourself mapping" on all the Etrian Odyssey games. I'd rather have it done for me like on Picdun 2.

Dpullam

#34

Dpullam said:

I'm glad to see the 3DS is continuing to get solid releases on the Eshop. I'm not a huge fan of first person dungeon crawlers, but it looks like something I could get into down the road.

EaZy_T

#35

EaZy_T said:

This game is a lot of fun :)
One thing I like about PD2 over the DSiWare version is that it's nice to be able to play straight off the SDcard.
(I've run out of system memory long ago and dislike swapping games back and forth between SD/sysmem.)

Kaze_Memaryu

#37

Kaze_Memaryu said:

God, the EU release was announced first, the NA release was a complete surprise, and japan had it for several months now - but the europe still hasn't gotten it?!

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