Quite a few attempts have been made at producing a good DSiWare action RPG by now. Some of these games turned out to be top-notch, and others not so much. Thankfully, The Lost Town - The Dust falls into the category of games that are definitely worth their weight in Nintendo Points. This lengthily titled action RPG combines level building with real-time combat to create a unique and innovative new game.
The Lost Town - The Dust tells the story of a small town that undergoes a series of very unfortunate disasters and is eventually overrun by monsters. When all hope seems to be lost, a mysterious girl named Chilia appears in town and is pitted with the task of saving the surviving residents. Taking control of Chilia, it is your job to use an assortment of weapons and traps to defeat the monsters, save the townsfolk and protect the camp over the course of seven days and seven nights. It’s a very straightforward story that doesn’t scream out originality, but it’s just engaging enough to set up the action of the game.
The majority of the game will have you running around the town, killing monsters and saving civilians. With each passing day, the town map will expand giving you more room to explore and the enemies that show up will get stronger and have a greater desire to see you dead. The interesting thing about dying in this game is that if you are killed by a monster, you don’t actually die right away — you are instead turned into a zombie with a quickly draining health bar. If you can reach your camp in the centre of town before this health bar drains, then you'll become turned human again. While the game automatically saves after each night, if you die before the night passes then you will have to play through the entire day again. There is also a menu option to save whenever you’d like, so it might be in your best interest to do that more often than not.
As you venture out into the town to kill monsters and save civilians, you will gain experience points to level up with. With each level gained you will be allowed to assign one skill point to a variety of different attributes such as melee attack or luck, giving players control over how they would like to balance their character. While this customization may be limited to simply assigning skill points, it does bring a strategic aspect to the game, making it more than just a simple kill-or-be-killed affair.
Located in the centre of the town is your camp where you can purchase weapons, upgrade your camp or hire recruits to help you fight the monsters. The truly interesting thing about this game is that once night falls, your job shifts from strictly killing monsters and saving townsfolk to protecting the camp, adding a much appreciated variety to the gameplay. In order to protect the camp, you must set traps and fight off the monsters that are closing in on your base before they get the chance to destroy it. Strategising and planning around these attacks is key to the camp’s survival. The night portions of the game feel more like a real-time tower defense; the monsters no longer have any interest in killing you but simply want to destroy the camp.
Anyone who’s ever played either of the Legend of Zelda games for the DS won’t have too much trouble getting used to the controls in this game. Everything from movement to attacking to switching your weapon is done by tapping the stylus on the DSi’s touch screen, rendering the hard buttons completely useless. Though this control scheme can become a bit frustrating at points, and an option to control Chilia with the D-Pad would have been an appreciated inclusion, the controls are precise enough to get the job done.
All of the story sequences are told through a series of still drawings and blocks of text, a visual technique that works well for the gloomy mood surrounding this entire game. The in-game graphics have the same effect, with the color palette sticking mostly to brown and earthy colors. Rather than going with a more isometric approach like Zenonia did, The Lost Town - The Dust is viewed entirely from a top-down perspective. While this works just fine in gameplay, it is sometimes unclear exactly what you are looking at from directly above. Not showing off more of the character animations feels like a missed opportunity from this otherwise attractive game.
The Lost Town - The Dust is an ambitious game that brings some honest and original ideas to the DSiWare service. Blending RPG elements with real-time combat, fans of genres all across the board can find something that they will like in this title. While it may not be the longest game ever, with the campaign being beatable in just around two hours, there is enough diversity in it to make it worth more than one playthrough. Priced at only 500 Points, this fun, intriguing and innovative game is one not to be left in the dust.