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Chia Dungeon : A No Heroes Allowed Analysis

I take a look at the third entry in the challenging series for the PSP.

No Heroes Allowed is not only the third in a niche series on the PSP (and available on the PSN) but it is also the third re-branding of the series in the US. Originally it was Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman: What Did I do to Deserve This? (yes that was the title), then it just became What Did I do to Deserve This? Now with No Heroes Allowed this is the first time that Sony is publishing the game and at a cheaper price as well. After spending time with it I can say that it is good to be the bad guy once in awhile.

To give my fingers a break I'll be referring to the new game as NHA and the first two games as WDT 1 and 2. For the newcomers in all three titles you play as the "God of Destruction" which just so happens to be a floating pick-ax. You have been summoned by the evilest creature in the world: Badman who has one goal, to take over the world. To do that he needs a JRPG villain's dream dungeon to stop all those annoying heroes from capturing him.

Game-play in all three titles boils down to you carving out a dungeon from blocks in the ground. Some blocks have nutrients in them, when broken will create a monster. Depending on how many nutrients are in one tile will determine if a level 1,2 or 3 creature is created with the higher the level the stronger the creature. Level one creatures will take nutrients from one block and distribute it to another. Common strategy would suggest that having nothing but level 3 creatures would work, however there is a twist here that makes things interesting.

The creatures of the world fit into an Eco-system with the lower level creatures as food for the higher level. If you don't have enough lower creatures in your dungeon the higher creatures will starve before the heroes come to fight. You do not control any of the monsters; instead they go about their business. Besides monsters from nutrient blocks, there is also a 2nd food chain with mana which appears when a hero dies in a dungeon or uses a spell. Advance players can also use level 3 tiles to summon demons to the dungeon which provide buffs to your other creatures.

After a certain amount of time has elapsed heroes will arrive to the dungeon and begin cutting a path of destruction to get to Badman. If the heroes die before they take Badman out of the dungeon then you win. After each stage you can upgrade your monsters giving them better stats. The series has evolved considerably since WDT 1, in the first game you had just a set of stages in a row and once you finished it you won. WDT 2 expanded on this and introduced multiple worlds, each world was itself a set of stages that the player must complete in a row to finish that world. Evolution was added with WDT 2 as well, if the population of a species of monsters drops considerably either through being killed, eaten or starvation they will evolve into a different variation of that monster for the remainder of the stages.

NHA has all the mechanics of the last two and introduces a few more. First is that your pick-ax can unleash a special ability at the cost of dig power. You can also unlock other ones each with their own unique ability. The biggest change is the inclusion of water; certain blocks can be destroyed to unleash a flood in your dungeon. When the water becomes stagnant blocks that have either nutrients or mana will spawn lily pads that can be used to spawn more monsters in your dungeon. Water monsters can't exist on land and vice versa for land monsters. Water monsters also follow the same rules of evolution giving you another concept to juggle.

NHA like the previous titles look very simple from the outside, however there is a lot to digest here. The juggling act of carving space, keeping your population growing and more will keep you busy. NHA features an expanded tutorial along with bite sized dungeons you can play when the story mode has you down.

Let's talk about the bad news, the biggest problem I have with NHA is the same that I have with the previous titles. The learning curve at the start is set really high due to the mechanics. While the tutorials do a good job of teaching you each system one at a time, it doesn't help you in the main game when you are dealing with everything at once.

Due to how each world is set up as a series of levels, it is very hard to dig yourself out of a hole (no pun intended). If I do a great job on stages one to five then blow it on stage six losing the majority of my monsters it is very hard to come back from that.

Normally this would be the part that I would put on my game designer cap and figure out how to alleviate the learning curve problem, but this time I'm stumped. NHA is designed for the player to have access to all the systems and mechanics at once and the structure of the game would break down if certain elements were restricted. For example it would really screw the player if they only had up to level 2 monsters available for certain # of worlds.

Heroes are also put into this balance with different types that have different strengths or weaknesses, cutting one of the elements out of a world would require major re-balancing of the levels to make sure that the available mechanics will allow the player to beat all the stages.

Learning how to play NHA is like taking a cooking class and at the same time being told that you have to prepare a five star meal. Still with that said for $10 I can easily recommend this game. The added modes and systems along with difficulty settings give a lot of bang for your buck.

Josh

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