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Dimensions 3 vs. Pepsi Ranger
Dimensions 3
Cube
Download: 684 KB
V.S.
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 14 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    Dimensions III is the story of an epic battle between good and evil, the fight for truth and justice, and the right to wear three different pairs of clothes. Well, maybe not so much the truth and justice thing, but there is definitely some good and evil going on, and the clothes...yeah, there's some of that too. The story focuses specifically on Maz, high school super spy, with a bad attitude and funkier name. His principal, who doubles as a mission agent, sends him on a journey to discover what's going down at the nearby chemical plant. As fearless as our hero is, he takes the letter, and the mission, and sets off for the forbidden zone--with sword in one hand, and change of clothes in the other. Upon reaching the plant, aptly named MicroWare, he sneaks past the front desk secretary (because he would be a pretty lousy super spy if he didn't), and tangles with the many waves of security bots and power switches to make his way to the chemical production room. What he discovers in the room is a bunch of chemicals treading along a conveyor belt, and a switch to shut down all power in the factory. This of course alerts the boss of the place, who blatantly tells Maz that he's going to have to die for what he knows, and everyone in his high school may as well die too because hey, why not? When Maz kicks the butt of the guard who tries to carry out the boss's order, he heads back to school to report his mission findings. Naturally, the principal tells him that he must further discover the reasons for such atrocities, and sends him on his way to some warehouse in the south. This sets the pace for the rest of the story, which spans across the world (not ours, but some other crazy place), and further plummets Maz into a quest to stop ultimate madness and apathy. A couple other guys decide to hog some glory too.

The first time I played this game, I was very impressed with the initial design it had. It introduced a character that could easily become one of three different classes any time he wanted (Regular, Black, and White), a time system that used the days of the week to help certain events unfold, and a small sub-plot that allowed the character to earn a few extra bucks by helping out a doctor prescribe some medicine. As I got deeper into the story, I discovered some additional bonuses such as polished plotscripting scenes like a crashing airship and a perfectly free-flowing conveyor belt with junk on it. I also thought the close-up visuals of the letter and the relic map were a nice touch for player involvement. But, with all the nice tricks that came bundled into the program, the part that probably impressed me most was the ingeniously designed dungeon maps. I cannot think of a single dungeon that merely required blazing from one end to the other, to fight some furry thing and call it a day. Each dungeon required at least a little bit of thought or exploration before the end could be reached. Even though it did nothing for the story, it made the game a little more satisfying.

But, what wasn't the least bit satisfying was the poorly balanced battles. As cool as I thought the dungeons were, the really long, and really dull random battles, that seemed to have a habit of popping up every five or six steps, totally killed the excitement of exploration and leveling-up. It's one thing to have a battle pop up frequently, but it's another to have the enemies full of so much health, and the hero with such weak arms, that a single random battle can last up to two minutes or longer, putting desires of cutting the game off to go watch a movie into the player's head. What made things even worse was the fact that some of the dungeons did not have a save spot, or a place to refill health, and bosses that took a good thirty or forty minutes to reach (if the player stayed and fought every random battle), who could possibly defeat the hero and make him start over. One can probably overlook this oversight, but because Maz can't hit worth crap for the first two dungeons, and because he needs a decent supply of magic to knock off the first real boss, and because the magic refill fruit costs $1500, and because there is no health and magic restoration at level-up, and because it took me three attempts to finish the first dungeon, I almost gave up playing the game right there, and that is not the slightest bit good. Fortunately, the battles even out when Maz and his existing crew discover a Defense Cut Sword, or something like that, which adds about two hundred extra health points to its owner, and works on the Lost HP system, meaning some heavy attacks made by a weakened hero. I think that sword is what helped me stick with the game because all of a sudden, random field enemies that I'd always run from because it would take over twenty hits and two heal bottles to knock them out, had become sissies. Next thing I knew, leveling-up became easier, which was good considering each character form had its own list of statuses. Of course, that's about when all the places without random enemies became available. I don't mind that the battle system required a butt-shredding sword to make things easier, but I do mind the fact that the early battles that could not have possibly utilized the sword due to availability problems were still designed to need it anyway. A bigger problem than that was the terrible fact that most enemies had a "back row" version that could only be hit for ten percent of the normal damage. This translated to heroes hitting 500HP plus enemies at two or three points a turn. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I have no desire to spend half an hour flicking a wolf for a hundred points of experience. It's too bad that the game suffers for something as important as random battles, but that's why chronology plays an important role to enemy strength. If a hero cannot possibly win a random battle, don't put it in yet. No one wants to keep hitting the escape key. Something else that failed miserably was Maz's cure spell. When enemies hit a hero for sixteen points a pop or more, a spell that only cures one point of health at a time (but still costs five points to cast) is not going to help the player any. It's the equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound. It may be nice to be able to regenerate some health back, but it defeats the purpose when the player still needs to stock up on health items (which do cure nicely and are very cheap to buy). Outside of the battle problems, the game also seems to be lacking a lot of NPCs and other important details. Practically all of the towns have two or less people walking the streets, as well as buildings that don't lead anywhere, and item shops that are empty. The few people that are around serve mainly to push the story forward, which is okay, but kind of dull when everybody knows about the conspiracies and mysteries of the land. I guess I'd like to see a few people walking around here and there, complaining about how their dog lifted its leg on their shoes, or anything that adds personality to the game and its world. Polished grammar and dialogue would be a bonus too. Finally, I'm not sure if this is a demo or the full game, but I took the game as far as I think it would let me, only to be disappointed by the fact that three of the supposed adventure sites didn't exist. So, if this is a demo, something to let the player know that there's nothing left would've been nice. If it's a full game, I really don't think it should be considered finished. Any way one looks at it, this game is on the right track, but it needs more to develop it into something amazing.
Final Scores
Graphics: 7/10.0
The graphics are mostly average to pretty good. Even though the use of geometrical shapes for mountain ranges and other landscapes is an odd choice, they are still drawn perfectly, and effectively play on the word "Dimensions," so they are certainly worth some good commenting. Little details like shadows and coffee cups add to the graphic eye candy that is occasionally absent, but sometimes very nice. The character graphics are not so wonderful, but at least they animate, so the author earns a point there too. However, one of the heroes' "weakened" state battle graphics is completely missing, so the author has to give up that point.
Storyline: 4/10.0
The storyline is remarkably bland for a game that has so much promise. The main reason is not because it's typical, but because the villain is the living embodiment of apathy. When Maz asks him why he wants to participate in the destruction of the world (which is another sudden and blatant revelation), he responds that it's just something he wants to do. Unfortunately for this game, that kind of character drive is considered weak and a major no-no in any form of story development, and this game cannot hold itself above the waters of seriousness because of it. Flat character all around help the story crash into the dirt with its falling airship.
Gameplay: 6/10.0
The gameplay is a very tricky beast to tame, since much of it is designed very well, but much of it is designed very badly. The short missions and intelligent map designs earn this game a high score, but the overly irritating battle system throws a few points away. Better planning of fight chronolgy would help raise the score at least two extra points.
Music: 7.5/10.0
Yeah, the music's all right I suppose. It fits the mood for each given scene, so it's worth a decent score. Even though the game is probably better with Sting's greatest hits CD playing in the background, the machinery-sounding tracks in the factories are near perfect to the setting, and the field music is like listening to sunshine. Although, even if I think the soundtrack is decent, I do have to comment on the airship music. It sounds suspiciously like the airship music on Final Fantasy III, which is funny because the airship itself also looks like the one on FFIII, or at least it does on deck.
Overall Grade: B-
Final Thoughts
    For all the annoyances that this game has, I still think it's a cleverly-made game that deserves attention. The areas that need work really need a lot of it, but there's still enough good parts left over to justify saying that the author put a lot of heart into making this. With that, I'll say give it a try, even if it's just to see the uniqueness of the design.  



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