Combining RPGs and CCGs has been all the rage for some time on mobile platforms, however few of them actually feel like they could feasibly function as an actual deck of physical cards. Dungeons and Girls, for all its anime-cliché trappings, actually have a good stab at producing a well-rounded package.
iQubi Inc are obviously a company that produce their games with passion. At the time of writing they’ve produced only two games, their first ‘The War for Eustrath’ saw release across multiple platforms and was a a competant Tactical RPG in the vein of ‘Super Robot Wars’ with a story straight out of a Mech epic. Their second forray into gaming comes in the shame of Dungeons and Girls, which plays more toward popular mobile trends but shows a similar anime-inspired background.
Graphically the game utilises limited assets to produce its ‘Dungeon’ (which is more of a corridor in reality), with the one tunnel graphic used for every area and distorted/flexed to represent forward movement. This does breed some repetition in terms of world-building, especially as the dungeon is split into multiple areas and additional backgrounds wouldn’t have been too arduous on the production team, but at least represents the concept of moving deeper into the one dungeon in increments. The visual variation comes in encountering different female monsters (all female and the Girls of the title) who show variation between types and each come in three different flavours that rank from basic to rare and super rare respectivly. These have a strong anime asthetic and lean toward very light fan service, giving the game a strong central theme and visual identity. It’s evident that one artist has worked on all of the graphical elements of this title, because they all use the same style and link seamlessly without and problems meshing assets together. Gameplay elements are clear and distinct, with a well developed HUD (developed with a ‘Persona’ title in mind), however there are some visual issues with character art being cropped to avoid clipping with HUD elements that are not always in play, meaning that at times the art looks oddly framed. This aside it’s an attractive visual package presented in 2D at all times.
Sound effects are competant but largly reserved for decisions made by the player, and occasionally fall beneath the louder presentation of the games limited musical tracks. A title theme, dungeon theme and battle themes are all presented and have a borderline J-Pop style that puts the player in mind of a ‘Persona’ soundtrack without ever quite rising to the same ridiculous heights. Due to the length of some dungeon dives however, these can feel a little stale over longer sessions and most players will eventually start to play with the game on mute before long.
There’s not really a firm narrative established for the game, and as a dungeon crawl it doesn’t really lean on one to explain the basic monster collecting premise. There are some slight storytelling flourishes in the games brief opening tutorial, but nothing that a player can really latch on to, which is a shame because split across storytelling in the same manner as War for Eustrath would have seriously elevated this title in terms of replayability and depth. The decision to avoid a plot seemed to stem primarily from the fact that the player can freely switch between four avatars as he/she unlocks them, and although monsters (especially bosses) scream dialogue mid-battle it’s usually a hint to their next action rather than a deeper look at their characters.
Gameplay sees the player choosing one of four characters (initially one with the other three unlocking through play) who each come with a pre-set special ability and a set deck of cards. Cards fall into 4 distinct types. Attack, which deals a stated amount of damage directly to enemies. Defend, which reduces damage and triggers a counter attack. Heal, that restores your avatar’s HP to varying degrees, and Charge that skip the turn but double attack values in the next phase. Each card has a standard effect value and a movement total that varies between 5 to 25 meters of in-game exploration. When not in a battle the player uses these seconday stats to travel deeper one card at a time, travelling a set distance scattered with monsters for encounters and chests for random loot, ending with a boss encounter. The aim is to travel the total sum, defeat the boss and move on. Combat is turn based with the player using the cards for their primary function as monsters hammer the avatar’s HP. This is spiced up by the ability to gain levels (non-persistant for the avatar but quick to build up) and learn boosts to HP, Healing and Attack in addition to altering the draw efficiency of your hand and selecting up to three skills that charge up over the course of turns and can swing battles if played correctly. Each avatar pulls from a different play style, and you will quickly learn which skills to select to maximise this. The monsters you encounter have a chance of switching to your side after battle, and these form the backbone of the games collection mechanic. Labelled as Partners, these gain permanent levels and aid you in battle, able to be further trained through dungeon delves and the delivering of gifts when uncovered. Decks can be supplimented by additional wild cards that have limited uses and must be collected or purchased, and unlocking affection for partners will eventually open up new skills. It all works in a fluid manner to effectivly make a card-hopping dungeon crawl that barrells along at a fine pace. The collection of partners is the games main replay mechanic, and additional summons can be made using a basic freemium currency mechanic, though there’s a strick ‘never draw a double-up’ system in place to avoid dissapointment and the whole game can be completed without paying out.
Overall, this is a well built game from iQubi Inc that manages to impress on the level of complexity it has worked into a simple concept, but there are a few issues. The daily rewards for example stop after one week of play, meaning you don’t get more bonuses for logging in. This may be a bug or intentional to keep the players hungry for more premium currency in the later stages of the game in the hopes of a purchase, but it feels strange. The collecting and purchasing of favour of women is also a touchy subject, though the game is firmly family friendly. We enjoyed our time with Dungeons and Girls and look forward to seeing what comes next from iQubi Inc.