Review by discoinferno84

"We dine well here in Camelot..."

The White Deer Tavern is having a slow morning. The minstrel is already crammed into his corner, strumming his lute and singing off-key. At least the patrons are too busy nursing pints of beer to notice. Nor do they seem to realize just how weird they look sitting at the same table; you wouldn't think that a Knight of the Round Table, a grotesquely over-muscled fighter, an elfin archer, and a Gandalf the Grey impersonator would all be carousing together. But just as they're getting drunk, Sir Generic Plot Device stumbles into the tavern, and screams, “Oh no! The monsters are attacking the town! And the princess has been taken as well!” His words around drowned out by the splintering crack of the door. A werewolf bursts into the common room, rips the man into bloody ribbons, and sends the tables flying back against the wall.

Needless to say, the heroes are pissed. The furry bastard spilled good beer everywhere! The knight wastes little time in grabbing his sword and going to work. There's no finesse or chivalry here; with only a few powerful, blood-spattering slashes, the monster is left dismembered in a puddle of its green innards. But before the knight can get back to drinking, a few more werewolves flood the tavern. At least, they try to get inside; the elf sends one of the monsters reeling with an arrow to its eye, and the warlock roasts another with a magical laser beam. The fighter picks up the lone straggler, smashes its hairy hide through one of the wooden stools, and takes a swig of beer to celebrate…Only to get interrupted again. Only this time, it's by a blend of snarls and screams from outside.

Those ****ing monsters. Kidnapping a princess is one thing, but this is just annoying. Since a few scuffles in the bar isn't going to stop the ongoing siege, the heroes ditch the tavern and start hacking their way through the town square. Despite having an entire legion ransacking the place, the enemy forces attack in small but progressively tougher groups; all it takes is a few hacks and slashes to progress through the isometrically-angled streets and branching paths. Aside from the occasional armored werewolf, you'll have to tear through goblins, man/elf-eating plants, lizard people, and even the occasional evil knight. Your avatar (you can only choose one of the heroes at a time) not only comes equipped with a fem quick punch and kick combos, but can also perform a few charged-based attacks as well. While the fighter can only dish out a single, devastating sword slash, the knight can do rip through anything with a fiery uppercut. The archer and the warlock round everything out with devastating projectiles, but the amount of charging time required makes them unwieldy at best.

But if you manage to mash the right buttons at the correct time, your character will execute a special attack that can send even the toughest foes reeling. Between a bladed Haymaker, a miniature tornado, a dash of napalm, and a meteor shower, these heroes have more than enough firepower to deal with sticky situations. That's on top of all the secondary weapons you'll get to use; while other brawlers like Final Fight grant you access to broken bottles and lead pipes, the realm of Dungeon Magic is strewn with throwing knives, sabers, lanes, maces, shields, axes, and even elementally-powered equipment that can be used throughout the adventure. Since all the enemies you slay and random treasure you pick up add to your overall experience points (and to your health and attack power accordingly), you'll find that your character will level up into a monster-slaying machine in no time. Considering the aggressiveness of your foes and the somewhat laggy controls, you're going to need all the help you can get.

Regardless of how well you do against your foes, the cobblestone streets will run thick with green blood. You'll crush your foes through flimsy tables and benches, explore dank passageways and dungeons, and trade blows giant serpents, evil knights and other awesome bosses. While the game boasts arcade graphics circa 1993, little things like the knight's flowing red cape, and the shiny enemy armor are impressive. The game goes to considerable effort to establish its settings; you'll see the moss growing out between bricked ruins, skeletons piled in corners, and plenty of breakable statues and pillars beside nearly every door. While even minor foes are decked out in greasy fur and hardened scales, their animations tend to be slow and frequently choppy. Of course, you'll probably be too busy trying to stay alive to notice.

It's a shame, really. While countless other brawlers enjoyed a massive fan following and popularity, this little gem was tucked away in the corner of some godforsaken arcade. While the plot is as generic as it can get, being able to control four heroes with widely different playing styles is definitely a plus. The isometric camera angles and branching paths provide a much-needed break from all the sidescrolling and linear brawlers. You'll get to kick ass with plenty of different weapons, level your character to ridiculously high strengths, and annihilate some of the most diehard foes you'll ever see in a brawler this old. If all else fails, the Dungeon Magic teaches you one valuable lesson: never waste good beer.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/19/07

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