Away: Shuffle Dungeon Review «

Share it:Tweet Away: Shuffle Dungeon might be the most taxing game I’ve ever played. The exhaustion isn’t a matter of reflexes, however; like most top-down action-role-playing games, it doesn’t require thumb dexterity so much as cautious play. That’s the rub, though: Caution only goes so far when the dungeon’s rearranging itself every few seconds.
Shuffle Dungeon is a conceptual riff on the notorious recurring timed dungeon in fellow DS title The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, demanding smart play by making the dungeon itself a hazard. Each labyrinth is spread across the DS’ two screens — every few seconds, one of the screens shuffles, shifting to a new configuration. Linger too long and you’ll be injured — and worse, sent back to the beginning of the current floor.

Click the image above to check out all the Away: Shuffle Dungeon screens.
So conservative play makes for a poor strategy in Shuffle Dungeon; sticking around any single spot for more than about 10 seconds leaves you trapped as the dungeon transforms. With the world in an ever-constant state of motion, you’re forced to push forward and take risks that you’d otherwise never attempt. You’ll quickly learn to keep your eyes peeled so as to see which screen is about to flip, and the countdown timer becomes your nemesis as you make a last-second dash for that tantalizing chest or switch on the screen that’s about to disappear (of course, you can always choose to hang around until that screen shuffles back into play, but you never know when that’ll be).

Click the image above to check out all the Away: Shuffle Dungeon screens.
Unfortunately, this clever mechanic is the only unique thing about Shuffle Dungeon. The game’s overarching goal is to rebuild a town by rescuing its myriad captive citizens, much like in the Super Nintendo classic Soul Blazer, but that’s really just a means to an end. The real meat of Shuffle Dungeon’s gameplay is in exploring dungeons; doing so allows you to upgrade the town (and your tagalong party of curious magical creatures)…but really, that’s just a bonus on top of all of the dungeon-diving.

Shuffle Dungeon’s strength lies in its level designs, which are cleverly crafted so as to force tough choices at the spur of the moment. The limited structure grows a bit long in the tooth once you’ve been playing for a while…but even so, it never stops pushing you to make those snap decisions.


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