capsule review

DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold

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Remember Daleks? It’s an ancient game from the dawn of time, back when Macs were black-and-white machines. Deadly Rooms of Death (DROD) very much evokes the Daleks style of play, with a fantasy/role-playing game flavor that’s sure to appeal to old and new gamers alike.

DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold follows the adventures of Beethro, who wanders around the dungeons of the land killing nasty creatures that get in his way. This time around Beethro has taken his mischievous nephew Halph to work, with unfortunate results. Halph has run off, and Beethro has to find him—they eventually end up far below the surface of the world, being chased by a devilish (albeit clownish) fiend as they make their way through what seems like and endless assortment of puzzles.

All of the graphics in DROD are viewed from an overhead, top-down, two-dimensional perspective. You can see the monsters, obstacles, traps, and other objects in each room you visit. And each level is designed fairly linearly, so there's only one way in and one way out, forcing you to explore and unlock each room, chamber and area as you progress.

Movement in DROD is purely turn-based—each time you hit a directional button on the keyboard, Beethro will move one step. Beethro comes armed with a nasty sword, which is quite helpful, as there are lots of bad guys to smite along the way—he is a smitemaster, after all. There are also traps that he needs to set off using his sword.

One movement or action equals one tick of the clock. So if Beethro squares off against a bad guy and you move him one step forward, the bad guy can also move one step. By the time Beethro is standing face to face with him, you’ll want to swing the sword in the bad guy’s direction, otherwise Beethro is likely to fall in place. There are no hit points or strength points to keep track of—as soon as Beethro makes contact with a baddie or a deadly trap, he's toast.

Fortunately, the game is very forgiving each time Beethro croaks. It’s willing to put you right back where you started when you first entered—after all, this is a puzzle game, not an RPG or an action title. That’s for the better because the puzzles and traps can send you back to square one in a heartbeat—you’ll find that you have to replay certain rooms over and over again until you can find the right combination of moves to get out alive.

A lot of navigating around the world of DROD depends on your ability to see and negotiate traps, obstacles and other game elements you’ll find along the way. Your way might be blocked by a wall, for example, which will vanish when you swing Beethro’s sword into a nearby switch.

There are more than 350 rooms, which will keep you busy for hours on end. And the rooms are rife with almost a dozen-and-a-half different kinds of monsters that are after your blood, so you’ll often need to do some hacking and slashing before you can get to the next room. Fortunately, violence in DROD is very mild—unless you’re opposed to cartoony splashes of blood effects, chances are you’ll find this game suitable for a wide number of players in the family.

Beethro also ends up interacting with a fair number of characters who help propel the story forward as he goes on his quest to recover his nephew and figure out who’s behind this rash of weird behavior in the kingdom’s dungeons.

Voice acting and the game’s soundtrack are both surprisingly strong for a shareware title with such modest graphics—the soundtrack in particular reminds me of playing Nintendo games back in the 1980s (a nice retro throwback for old schoolers like me).

I’ve got to admit that this game’s turn-based gameplay, top-down graphics and lack of mouse support may leave some gamers wondering where the appeal is—but as a kid who was raised on fare like Daleks, I totally get DROD and really liked it.

The bottom line

DROD is really appealing for gamers who recognize the game Daleks or who are looking for puzzle fun that doesn’t involving matching three of anything.

DROD features an overhead, two-dimensional view, as you lead Beethro through what seems like an endless assortment of puzzles.
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