Orcs & Elves DS Hands-On Impressions

orcselves_slime.jpgMaybe mobile gaming isn't that bad. The id Software port of its Orcs & Elves dungeon crawler, born on the mobile platform now on the Nintendo DS, may force me to reevaluate playing games on my mobile phone. After getting what I thought was a second string hands-on assignment from Crecente, I realised that I'm more into first person dungeon crawling RPGs than I had originally thought. Having experienced only a handful over my amateur gaming career—Shining In The Darkness, Phantasy Star, and a handful on Texas Instrument computers whose titles escape me—I realised that a straightforward dungeon hack might be just what I'm looking for next on the Nintendo DS.

Fountainhead Entertainment's Orcs & Elves DS may not be much to look at—graphically, it's not much better than id's own Doom—it's actually quite fun to play. Gameplay takes place on the top screen of the Nintendo DS with the bottom screen dedicated to the inventory or, at times, a top down map for when you get lost.The inventory system is actually just a first-person downward look at your character's belt. In it, you'll see a map, journal, potion, sword and other items. Tapping the blue potion on your belt will bring up a menu screen with various other tonics, including buff potions, healing potions and more.

Control is very flexible. It can be controlled entirely with the d-pad and face buttons. Or you can opt to use nothing but touchscreen controls. I actually found that a combination of both was best for me, using the d-pad to move forward, backward, left and right—using the L-button to strafe—and dishing out attacks with the stylus.

Most of the game's action, based solely on my time with the demo version, was simply unlocking doors, solving puzzles and dispatches various slime beasts, anthropomorphic rats and purple spider-things. Combat is obscenely simple, requiring that one tap the all-powerful USE button over and over and over.

Battles are in real-time, making the one boss battle I experienced tougher than expected. Trying to attack the thing while keeping an eye on my health and using the touchscreen interface was too awkward (and ultimately ended my play session). It may make more sense to use the ABXY buttons for something like this, but since I foolishly passed on saving my game, I was unable to give it another shot.

Orcs & Elves may not be the best-looking DS game around, or even in the top 200 best looking DS games, but it was surprisingly fun in an old-school way.


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