Dark Raider - I’ll admit it, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for a good hack-n-slash dungeon crawler. You don’t really see too many of them being made nowadays, but I distinctly recall spending hours glued to a Gauntlet coin-op in my local Pizza Hut restaurant as a kid. So Dark Raider by Rocking Pocket Games, a hack-n-slash dungeon crawler at it core, speaks to me in a personal way.
The recipe for creating an exemplary game of this sort has been used time after time, so I jumped into Dark Raider hoping that the team over at Rocking Pocket Games didn’t sprinkle too many unnecessary seasonings to an already delicious recipe.
You are the Dark Raider, a protagonist that is saddled with the corniest backstory I’ve ever seen a main character have. Something tells me that it’s intentionally campy and ridiculous. Regardless, I’d be willing to bet good money that you’ll be amused from the 90 second opening intro. In keeping with tradition of the genre, Dark Raider fails to provide an engaging premise to the action in the game. But it’s totally inconsequential as you don’t play this sort of game for the story.
After all the introductory stuff, you’re dropped into an interactive hub that has gateways to 8 different environments (e.g. Castles, Egyptian Pyramids, Mazes, etc.) to romp through. In each level, you have to navigate throughout the scene and find keys to open up an exit route. You’ll run into a whole cast of otherworldly creatures and environmental hazards, but it’s nothing your Dark Raider can’t handle with a collection of weapons that include pistols, shotguns, and flame throwers amongst other weapons. After completing a level in a themed environment, a harder level opens for you to take on as well. You’ll do this over and over until you get through all 64 levels spread across all eight environments. It’s a bit monotonous, but it’s to be expected with this type of game.
Graphically, Dark Raider is more than competent. While the game leverages a top-down view of the action, the sprites are fairly detailed and the art style is consistent and inspired. The animations are a bit choppy, but the intended effect comes through well. I was also impressed by how different the environments looked. To compliment the visuals, Dark Raider comes through with a moody and foreboding soundtrack that is well done.
Dark Raider looks and plays the part of a top-tier dungeon crawler, but the control inconsistencies hold back the game from greatness. Even with the recent patch to add in twin stick controls, the controls go from good to clunky on a dime because they aren't fluid enough. Granted the newly added twin stick controls are a big upgrade over the default controls, they don’t come close to the silky controls you’ll find in an iDracula or Wolfenstein 3D Classic.
Overall, I’m a fan of Dark Raider. It’s a huge game that’s packing a lot of features for a reasonable price. If Dark Raider is your kind of game, I’d highly recommend it to you. Otherwise, I’d keep a close eye on the next big update that hopefully addresses the controls again.