Dwarf Madness is one of many dual-stick shooters available for download, but it does thankfully try to put some unique spins on how one can play and progress through it. Besides being medieval and fantasy-themed instead of employing the typical sci-fi or action settings, the game is less about racking up individual high scores and more about building up a single resource to unlock more features.
The story is told simply through several text scrolls, and boils down to a colony of dwarves fighting back against zombie hordes after discovering how to use guns. There are numerous “Chapters” to read whenever various upgrades are obtained, and though I feel that some illustrations would have been nice, they’re written well enough to be entertaining little tidbits.
From there, the game enables you to select from one of three pallet-swapped male dwarves as well as one female, and navigate a cavern to collect randomly dropped gold. Numerous enemies also make appearances, ranging in appearance, size, speed, and the amount of hits they will take before they’ll go down. They can be dispatched with the traditional twin-stick shooter theme of moving with the left stick and aiming and shooting with the right stick.
While you’ll start off with just a pistol, you can save up the gold coins you collect while playing to bolster your arsenal in-between rounds to include such weapons as a machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle, and rocket launcher, all with different properties to them. Admittedly, I found it hard to use anything but the machine gun after obtaining it due to its high fire rate, but your mileage may vary.
There’s also the inclusion of Dwarf Gear, a separate store menu where you can purchase different items and perks to help you out in various ways, like reduced weapon recoil, damage increasers, speed boosts, and a dowsing rod that points you in the direction of the nearest coin. You won’t get enough money to buy everything super quickly, which encourages players to keep coming back. Going further, local multiplayer is also supported for up to four players in a co-op take on the main mode, where players share a pool of lives together.
Dwarf Madness does indeed offer players reasons to return. Unfortunately, a lack of variety soon makes itself apparent, which greatly diminishes the intended replay value. This is mainly due to the fact that you only have one static environment to navigate the whole time, with no changes ever being made to the graphical style or layout. Things just stop feeling fresh after a while because of this, and I was left wishing that the developers had incorporated a random level generation element.
The graphics themselves look nice on the characters, with a simple but charming 16-bit approach taken for the dwarves and the various creatures they fight. A MIDI-styled musical score also is included, but again, there isn’t much in the way of audio variety while playing. Some of the weapon sound effects, like the machine gun, also get annoying over time. Thankfully, there are options to individually adjust the sound effect and music settings individually.
Dwarf Madness isn’t going to win any awards, but for an indie game that costs just a dollar, it should provide a bit of fun diversion for those interested. I just wish that there was more variety to the whole package, particularly in the level layout area. Twin-stick shooter junkies may want to look into it for its clever take on how replay value is incorporated, but others might tire of it quickly.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version, which was provided to us for review purposes.