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Three Dirty Dwarves - SegaSoft

by Nathan Stehle (stehle@aries.scs.uiuc.edu)

Lowdown:

    Three Dirty Dwarves is SegaSoft's first title for the Sega Saturn, which I hope is a sign of a fraction of what they can do. This side-scrolling beat-em up is best described as a cross between Streets of Rage and Toe Jam & Earl, which doesn't do this game complete justice either. That being said, I have never laughed so much playing a video game, which is to say the game is very amusing. 3ddIf most games had half the quality of this title, life as a video game player would be vastly improved. Play mechanics, graphics and sound are all above average, but neither are they 32-bit cutting edge material. In summary this game is worth purchasing if you enjoyed Guardian Heroes and other side-scrolling fighters.

Three Dirty Dwarves represents to me how all games should be done- meet the gamer's expectation (at the minimum)-which is to be fun. Games such as these that are solid in all facets of the game are rare, and unfortunately far between. The last game that impressed me this much was Legend of Oasis. SegaSoft is setting a good standard, which bodes well for their future. Playstation owners are reportedly getting this one, and for those who do not have the financial resources to be able to have both 32-bit systems that is a good thing. Also, Saturn owners have much to look forward to with SegaSoft now making games, if TDD is any indication.

In TDD, you play the part of the three dwarves: Greg armed with a baseball bat and baseballs, Taconic who wields a bowling pin and bowling ball and Corthag who uses a shotgun. Your goal is to free four children (who summoned you with their imagination from another dimension) from the weapons research lab where they are being imprisoned. 3ddAlong the way you face such enemies as Orcs (common), the Duct Tape Lady and Pit Bully (an enemy covered with terriers who uses these mutts to attack you). There are numerous more enemies each with unique attacks, which make this game very interesting. The levels are side-scrollers mixed with some very creative encounters with the enemy such as a skull baseball game and some 3D boss encounters.

Graphics are like playing in a Saturday morning cartoon which is to say they are not super slick or kewl. The biggest (and only) knock is the lack of frames of animation for some of the characters, it just seems a bit choppy at points. I am far from an expert, but it could have been a little smoother. That being said, the variety of attacks and animations more than compensate for this shortcoming. Attacks from characters such as the naked ninja and Duct Tape Lady attack are truly hilarious. The Man of a Thousand Swords (a New Jersey salesman who snapped) has my vote for the coolest boss in a video game.

Sounds and music in the game are well done, but fall a bit short in the variety department. The side-scrolling stages, due to their length are plagued the most by this flaw. The music is quite catchy however, and it fits the whacked-out nature of TDD very well. Sounds like the cackle of an attacking enemy attacker or the firing of Corthag's shotgun are very crisp and real sounding...a least for a cartoon. The voice acting in the cinemas is also top-notch, completing the cartoon atmosphere and making the game extremely amusing. The music is there, but does not overpower the game sound effects, making for a nice mesh of the two. Only during boss encounters does the music come to the forefront occasionally.

Gameplay is where TDD excels and sets a standard. The variety of special moves and ease of execution of these moves by a lone button press (for all but one) then followed but movement of the character makes the game accessible for _all_ players. No super-complicated Street Fighter type moves to have to execute when you are being attacked from all sides here. Each dwarve has attacks related to his weapon of choice. Greg uses his baseballs and bat, Taconic uses his pin and bowling ball and Corthag uses the shotgun. Each of these moves are also parlayed into a super-move that is called the Morph Dwarve, so if Greg is leading, the move shoots a large number of baseballs across the screen. Each of the dwarves' attacks work in a certain way, some are quicker, some are stronger and some allow you to move out of harm's way faster. Figuring out what to do is the challenge, but it is not overly difficult. Which dwarve to use matters more for the boss encounters than any other enemies. The number of enemies per level is usually 4 or 5 with some mid-boss creatures occasionally. But from level to level, the enemies really don't repeat that much, if at all. The boss or special encounters (Man of a Thousand swords, the dragon, the trolley ride) are all well done and make for a varied game experience. 3ddTo kill the Man of a Thousand Swords, you need to run around on a girder and jump large swords (both swung and thrown). The dragon is hiding in a building, and you need to demolish the building and put out his flame. The trolley ride involves driving around on wooden tracks while destroying and/or avoiding obstacles and killing enemies in your way. These are some of the unique stages found in TDD, which keep the game from becoming side-scroller monotony.

The graphics, sound and gameplay all combine for a fun and amusing experience. The opening and ending cinemas start the game off right and end it satisfyingly. I have never, EVER laughed so much during a games, and if you like side-scrolling beat-em-ups, and like a humorous twist, then this game is worth it. Also, the manual is one of the best I have see since my first WD game, which makes this game solid in ALL areas, if not excellent.

Graphics: 8

  • + Well-drawn characters with a Saturday morning cartoon feel.
  • + Great variety in animations for character movement an attacks
  • + Cinemas are well done
  • - Rarely is there movement of 3D objects, but when it is there, it could be a little crisper and smoother
  • - A few cases of pixellation (I'm being REALLY picky here)

Sound/Music: 7.5

  • + Music is quite catchy, especially the guitar material
  • - Music gets repetitive
  • + Game sounds are top-notch, fitting the cartoon atmosphere
  • + Voice acting in the cinemas well done

Gameplay: 8.5

  • + Various stages interspersed throughout the game (non-side-scrollering stages) are creatively done.
  • - The side-scrolling stages could have more variety and hidden stuff
  • + Special moves for each dwarve are easy to execute
  • - A fair amount of challenge, but could use a few more stages

Lasting Power: 7

  • + Great game, if you like side-scrollers
  • - A bit short, and it shouldn't be too hard to be for most gamers on account of the save feature (which is nice for us without hours of free time) and the unlimited continues. The hard level is definitely hard, though.
  • + Great two player fun

Overall: 7.75

A fun game and worth every penny of the $50 I paid for it

-Nathan Stehle




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