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Developer:
Caravel Games
Publisher: Caravel Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: 2005

by Jason Ferguson




DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold is a unique game, filled with complex puzzles, humor, and plenty of rooms to explore. Along your journey you’ll solve a wide variety of puzzles, unravel the mysteries of the dungeon and exterminate some pesky insects along the way!


For those unfamiliar with the series, DROD stands for “Deadly Rooms of Death.” If you’re not able to tell from the redundant title, this is a funny game with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. It’s not “laugh out loud” funny, but it has a silly tone to it that will have you smiling throughout.


Journey to Rooted Hold is the sequel to the original DROD, which has recently been remastered in the form of DROD: King Dugan’s Dungeon. You’ll play the game as Beethro Budkin, a dungeon exterminator. In the original game, he was hired to exterminate King Dugan’s dungeon. The events of that game, and the oddities discovered within the dungeon, have led him back to the dungeons, digging deeper to further unravel the mysteries that wait below. As you progress through the game, you’ll encounter new villains, and the story will unfold. The story is a little slow paced, and all of the dialogue can actually be ignored without affecting the gameplay. However, it provides a little bit of humor and a logical explanation as to why you’re roaming through dungeons. It'll even have you thinking from time to time, wondering what's going on and what new things you'll uncover in the dungeon.


The game’s controls are simple and effective, although they may take a little while to get used to. On the directional pad, 8 is forward, 2 is back, 6 is right, and 4 is left. You can also move diagonally using 1, 3, 7, and 9. Whenever you enter a room you can hit “enter” in order to get the room info, and ‘R’ will allow you to redo the entire room if you screw up bad enough. You can also hit “backspace” and undo your last move if you make a minor screw up.


‘W’ rotates Beethro clockwise, and ‘Q’ rotates him counterclockwise. I found this somewhat irritating, because these letters are close to ‘R’ and I was constantly accidentally redoing rooms. Beethro is constantly holding a sword that he points out in front of him. Rotating him with ‘Q’ and ‘W’ can be used to swing his sword at enemies, or simply to change the direction you are facing when the need arises. If you want to change the direction you are facing, you have to rotate all the way around rather than simply turning. It can take some getting used to, and might seem odd, but it’ll make sense once you get into the game.


Movement is all turn-based, so your enemies move in response to you. You must plan out every move with a lot of precision if you want to get through the dungeons in one piece. Sometimes you’ll have to look far ahead and plan out every single step you’ll take if you want to succeed.


You don’t REALLY fight. Instead, you simply run into enemies in front of you and stab them with your sword. Okay, so it’s not the most innovative way to exterminate foes, and it’s certainly lacking in the “action” area. However, this isn’t really an action adventure game, even though in many ways it plays like one. For the most part, it’s a puzzle game, where you have to solve complex puzzles and use deep strategy to make your way through the dungeon.


There’s no real intelligence at all to the enemies… they simply react to your movements. You take an action (moving, rotating, etc.) and then they respond by doing the same. This might seem really dull at first, but it forces you to think before each move and actually involves a surprising amount of strategy. It’s like a good game of chess, where you have to make the right moves at the right time and analyze how your opponent will respond. You have to think long and hard about where you should move and which direction you should be facing. Not to mention, the fact that enemies don’t move unless you do makes it a perfect game to sit and think. You have plenty of time to strategize and plan out your next move.


Enemies grow progressively more difficult as you make your way deeper into the dungeon. You’ll face enemies from roaches to roach queens that will hatch more deadly roaches! You’ll also encounter non-violent creatures, such as the white, furry wubbas! There are 17 different creatures that you’ll face, each with distinct behavior. The enemies themselves aren’t particularly challenging, seeing as all you really have to do is run in to them, but the level of strategy involved in killing them increases.


Dying can be frustrating because it means you have to re-do the entire room. Some of the rooms can be an entire series of difficult puzzles, so dying can really piss you off when you’ve made it far. However, if you think straight, you shouldn’t run into this problem often. And when you do finally finish a difficult room, you’ll be filled with that warm, fuzzy feeling that you only get from killing hordes of roaches in an underground dungeon.


You’re occasionally accompanied by your troublesome nephew, Halph. For some strange reason the creatures of the dungeon don’t bother him, so the two of you must work together to solve puzzles, kill monsters, and explore the dungeons. This adds a little bit of variety to the gameplay, requiring you to occasionally use teamwork. Unfortunately, if you run into your nephew, he’s killed, so he sometimes gets in the way.


The concept of the game is pretty straightforward, but many of the puzzles are actually quite challenging and might take a while to solve. The game can actually be fairly frustrating due to a high amount of precision required in many of the puzzles, but on the positive side many of the hardest puzzles can be avoided (at least temporarily) by taking an alternate route. You might spend a lot of time thinking and working on solving a puzzle, only to make a small mistake and get yourself killed! Fortunately, you can use ‘R’ to re-do a room and ‘backspace’ to undo your last action, making it a lot more user friendly. It can still be frustrating to put so much thought into a puzzle only to die, but if you’re quick enough you can prevent yourself from dying with ‘backspace.’ There’s even a quick tutorial that will teach you the basics of the game before you embark on your journey. Overall, due to the complexity of some of the puzzles, this game is probably best for those who are up for a challenge or adore puzzle games.


You’ll go from room to room solving puzzles and exterminating a variety of creatures. You’ve got switches to flip, trap doors to trigger, tunnels to pass through, and more. Once you’ve got all the rooms in a level cleared, you can pass on to the next level. There are 25 total levels, and 350 rooms! There is a rather large variety in puzzles, which helps to keep the gameplay fresh. However, solving puzzle after puzzle after puzzle can still get a bit monotonous. Make sure to give your brain a rest now and then in order to assure the best gaming experience possible with DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold.


The graphics are nothing that’s going to impress you. There isn’t much detail to anything, and much of the dungeon looks the same. Some of the objects are a little bit difficult to identify. The character portraits are well done, though, and feature some amusing expressions.


One of the coolest features of the game is the level editor that allows you to design and play your own dungeons! You can make these dungeons available to others through a service from the developers, known as CarvelNet, and download other gamers' dungeons. Combine this with the fact that the game is fairly lengthy, and this is a game that you can spend a good deal of time with.


The music to the game is surprisingly good. Sure, it’s fairly simplistic stuff, but it offers some nice little tunes that flow nicely along with the game. The music is also subtle enough that it won’t interfere with your concentration as you pick at your brain trying to solve puzzles. There’s even a fair amount of voice acting in the game, and it’s all of suprisingly good quality.


A lot about DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold may come off as dull and outdated at first glance, but if you give it a chance you’ll discover a deep and unique thinking man's game that will provide hours of entertainment. Best of all, you can get all of this for the low price of only $19.95, making it a great buy for anyone seeking a challenge!


Final Grade: 80%




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