The match three section is arguably the most overstuffed virtual aisle of the App Store, second only to Doodle games, and more recently, Angry Birds knock-offs. Regardless, developers keep making them, I keep trying them, and rarely do I find one that I'd play over match three staples like Bejeweled 2 [99¢]. Dungeon Raid [$2.99] is a rare exception to this, as it not only has solid matching gameplay with a clever twist, but it also has entirely too many things that I like in video games, making it incredibly hard to put down.

Dungeon Raid begins with you inputting your character name and selecting a difficulty. Don't worry if you can't come up with a good name, the game will suggest tons of random names that fit wonderfully in to any fantasy setting. From there, you're greeted with one of several random introductions to the game explaining how it is that your character has come across this dungeon. These intros are awesome, so I highly recommend actually reading them instead of instinctively mashing buttons to make large blocks of text go away. (I think we're all guilty of this on some level.)

The matching component of the game is quite similar to Azkend [$2.99 / Lite] (Which is another fantastic matching game.) in that instead of swapping pieces around like Bejeweled, you draw chains of similar blocks with your finger. These chains can go any direction, including diagonally, often resulting in massive board clearing matches. In fact, with only five types of blocks, huge chains are quite common.

By now you might be scratching your head wondering why I'm piling shovels full of praise on to a matching game with a matching component that's so simple that it usually doesn't take much skill to clear half the board in one move. Well, it's because of the layer on top of all this that makes Dungeon Raid the game that stole my entire day today. You see, each match you make serves a purpose, and deciding what you're going to match when seems to require quite a bit of strategy, and often some luck, as you never know what's going to replace the blocks you just cleared.

Strategy comes in to play because while Dungeon Raid may initially appear to just be a simple matching game, there's a fairly complex subset of RPG elements that drives everything you do. Enemies are represented by skulls on the game board. "Killing" an enemy involves matching skulls with enough swords to total up more damage than their hit points (which is displayed to the right of each enemy). After every match, every enemy on screen damages you, and special enemies also appear randomly which have increased hit points and other special abilities. One such ability involves their attacks "poisoning" you, at which point you take constant damage until you match healing potions. (Matching healing potions, as you can probably guess, heals you.)

Each skull cleared awards experience. Earn enough experience, and you level up, getting the option of increasing two of your character's attributes. These range from random active special abilities usable with cooldowns, or just flat out increasing your statistics which passively boost how much you're healed, how much damage you do, and things like that. Matching shields repairs your armor, and adds to a upgrade bar. Once your armor upgrade bar is full, you're given the option of improving one of your items, imbuing it with magical properties to increase your health, experience earned, or other effects. Having your armor repaired reduces the damage you take from enemies, so it's important to keep collecting shield blocks regardless.

The last type of block is the coin block. Clearing coins adds cash to your coin purse, and with enough coins saved up you're able to buy brand new items with better statistics than your old items. Also, matching health potion blocks when your health is full does nothing, and matching swords by themselves without skulls also serves no benefit aside from clearing our unneeded sword blocks from the game board. Matching more than three of a particular block gives a bonus, potentially allowing you to collect more of whatever resource it is your matching.

The game is over when your hit points reach zero, and while Dungeon Raid initially starts fairly simple, the more you play the more intense it gets. For instance, when faced with an entire game board full of skulls (often with special enemies as well) and you're forced to figure out whether you've got enough health to handle taking damage for a few turns while you clear blocks to set up a massive skull-slaying chain. Alternatively, you could dispatch the skulls in smaller groups, which potentially would allow you to take less damage and sneak some healing if you're lucky enough for the skull blocks to be replaced with healing potions. Or, assuming they're not on cooldown, you could bust out whatever special abilities your character learned while you leveled up.

Each play through is different too, as the items, abilities, and equipment upgrades you're offered are completely random. One game it might make more sense to play as more of a wizard-type character, focusing on training up active abilities with each level. Alternatively, on another play of the game you might find yourself constantly increasing the raw statistics of your character, focusing on damage, defense, or a balance of the two. Some abilities seem quite powerful, such as one that increases the effectiveness of healing potions. If you have access to this ability early in the game, it can substantially alter how you choose your matches since you can let skulls stay on the game board a little longer as completely healing yourself is as simple as popping that ability off and matching some potions.

The variety and depth of gameplay is just insane for a game, which at the end of the day, is just a simple match three with an entirely too clever RPG layered on top of it. Hell, I don't think I've ever been able to bust out a 1,000 word review on a match three, and that's saying something. Dungeon Raid is an effortless recommendation. It boasts a tutorial that is incredibly approachable, making the game appropriate for even the most casual of puzzle gamers, while offering a top-end that's full of strategy, a bit of luck, and an entire trail of character development decisions. In other words, download this game now.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Lord-Gek-Jordan/1559737263 Tim Lord Gek Jordan

    I love how each type of match has context. Sure you might be able to clear a group of some 20 potions right now...but if you aren't injured what good does it do you?

  • John

    I like the mechanics, but I am very shallow and wish this game was more polished like azkend, HoK or other match 3s. I dont play it much because, while the concept is well executed, but the graphics are so boring I can't find myself interested in it.

    It's a genre that for me really requires smooth, and diverse/well drawn graphics and sound design.

    • andrzej raczynski

      ditto.

    • Donalddumptruck

      Weird! For me, the genre is the opposite: it's all about good game play; screw the graphics. You're weird. :)

      DR is amazing on the game side of things. Just incredible. If you're on the fence, buy it!

  • Shatnershairpiece

    I liked this game for a couple days, but the 'try to beat your high' score type of gameplay gets tiring really fast. I don't really enjoy games like this where death is inevitable, and quick, (like roguelikes) and you don't really accomplish anything except "Oooo, I stayed alive five minutes longer than last time!"

    • Epox

      Yeah I noticed that too, I got it when it first came out and fave up soon.

  • Mr. B

    Screw you, Eli. There's never a game that you don't like. What's the point of a review if you always recommend the game? They can't all be good.

    • Defcubusal

      Not for sure but I think it's been mentioned somewhere that these reviewers on this site like to review games they like.. maybe as far as indie games go though.

      • Dragonfire714

        They should not do that though.

      • http://normalkid.com Arnold Kim

        Yes, we should. :)

        Games we review:

        1. Notable games (good or bad)
        2. Unknown games (good, or otherwise unique/interesting)

        What you are proposing is we review crappy games that no one has heard of, just to tell you not to buy them. No one actually wants to read that site.

      • Soth222

        It'd be nice, though, if there was at least a little elaboration as to what makes this game more noteworthy than others of its ilk. I'm thinking specifically Puzzle Quest, for example.

      • Anonymous

        "What you are proposing is reviewing crappy games that no one has heard of, just to tell you not to buy them"

        Welcome to the basic concept of a product review - you review anything, good or bad. It would be nice if we could trust that you don't like every game ever, so maybe if we come across this "unknown" game, we'll know whether or not to buy it.

        If we're not going to Touch Arcade for that, where are we going? Anywhere else I guess. I know Touch Arcade likes to have a great relationship with developers (hell, that's a huge reason why you're so popular), but every once in a while it would be nice to see more reviews like Brad's piece on Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, or Dungeon Defenders - raw and honest.

        But we can't have it all be scathing and honest when necessary, can we? I even remember right after Brad wrote his scathing Dungeon Defender review, Eli came out and spun a story to make it seem like it was still awesome (shrug). I just hope Brad doesn't go anywhere soon, haha.

      • DesignerZak

        I disagree. This is not like an XBox where there are a lot of games release, but at most a handful in a given week. There are so many games flying at the iOS no one person can play them all. I want to scroll through this site and read about the good stuff.

        Crap games will still be identified as crap on the app store itself. This is a really positive site. No need to go all negative with it.

      • Anonymous

        "Crap games will still be identified as crap on the app store itself. "

        By that token, everything that's good will still be identified as good on the top 50.

        I just think there's way too much brown nosing by select staff members. How come some staff members always like everything, and others review from their heart? I don't get it.

        If you are a designer, I can see why you'd want all positive coverage. You put your life into something, only to have people slam it because it's not a big budget release.

        But you also have consumers on the other side who are spending their hard earned cash on things that aren't that great, or are just nuanced clones of other games (ie Puzzle Quest).

      • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

        I just wanted to reiterate Arn's point that we play dozens and dozens of games that turn out to be quite lame for every good game that we post. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store, and games are a large chunk of what's out there -- and most iOS games are terrible. That's the negative to the zero barrier of entry that is the App Store. I don't think people realize how many games come out every single day. Almost all of the games that come out on a given day are not worth playing.

        But, that said, there is still a huge number of excellent titles out there. We do our best to identify them and share them with readers. I can assure you it keeps us quite busy without also picking some random crappy game that came out this morning and telling people not to buy it. That is not actually useful to readers.

        But, while there are so many bad games of little note coming out all the time, there are also high profile games that had a lot of momentum -- maybe huge PR or they are coming from a well-known studio, or perhaps are an iteration of a well-loved franchise. When those games fall flat, it is definitely of use to readers for us to share that info, and we do.

        We certainly do not catch every single awesome game that comes along -- but we do try. And I can assure you that if we were also reviewing random crappy games along the way, it would do little to help us highlight the hidden gems.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        There is literally no sense in picking out a game no one has ever heard of and wasting time telling people that it sucks.

      • guest

        "Literally no sense".

        Not figuratively, then?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Not at all.

      • Epox

        Of course there is sense so people don't even consider buying it...

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        If you never hear of a game, how could you ever consider buying it?

      • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

        I just wanted to reiterate Arn's point that we play dozens and dozens of games that turn out to be quite lame for every good game that we post. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the App Store, and games are a large chunk of what's out there -- and most iOS games are terrible. That's the negative to the zero barrier of entry that is the App Store. I don't think people realize how many games come out every single day. Almost all of the games that come out on a given day are not worth playing.

        But, that said, there is still a huge number of excellent titles out there. We do our best to identify them and share them with readers. I can assure you it keeps us quite busy without also picking some random crappy game that came out this morning and telling people not to buy it. That is not actually useful to readers.

        But, while there are so many bad games of little note coming out all the time, there are also high profile games that had a lot of momentum -- maybe huge PR or they are coming from a well-known studio, or perhaps are an iteration of a well-loved franchise. When those games fall flat, it is definitely of use to readers for us to share that info, and we do.

        We certainly do not catch every single awesome game that comes along -- but we do try. And I can assure you that if we were also reviewing random crappy games along the way, it would do little to help us highlight the hidden gems.

    • Epox

      that is true, but this app is actually good.

    • andrzej raczynski

      the point of the site is to get the sales commission from you clicking the link to buy. would you do that if the review said not to buy? so why waste the real estate on something guaranteed to only cause lost bandwidth with no profit potential?

    • Anonymous

      The only person I've seen in months who doesn't absolutely love every game is Brad Nicholson - the guy is great. He gives everything a fair shake, and doesn't trash the Android platform.

      Whatever the staff says, I bet you I could find a ratio of 50 "buy its" for every 1 "don't buy it" - and even then it's more like "consider buying it" (lawl).

      • TheTheory

        Your perspective is valid in environments where reviewers are delegated specific things to review by an editor or bossman. In such a situation the reviewer has no control over what they are reviewing and have to take them as they come. That is when you start looking at how specific reviewers (or the publication as a whole) spin their reviews.

        In this case, however, it sounds like most of the reviews are picked by the reviewer based on their own personal interest. That changes the game completely. As someone who has reviewed other media in the past, I can tell you the question boils down to "do I slog my way through writing a review about a game I don't care about so that my readers think I'm 'fair'", or "do I write about a game I love that most people aren't aware of so that perhaps they'll discover something new and great!"

        If you were playing 30 new iOS games a week and you could only review one of them, are you going to give air-time to one that sucks?

      • TheTheory

        Your perspective is valid in environments where reviewers are delegated specific things to review by an editor or bossman. In such a situation the reviewer has no control over what they are reviewing and have to take them as they come. That is when you start looking at how specific reviewers (or the publication as a whole) spin their reviews.

        In this case, however, it sounds like most of the reviews are picked by the reviewer based on their own personal interest. That changes the game completely. As someone who has reviewed other media in the past, I can tell you the question boils down to "do I slog my way through writing a review about a game I don't care about so that my readers think I'm 'fair'", or "do I write about a game I love that most people aren't aware of so that perhaps they'll discover something new and great!"

        If you were playing 30 new iOS games a week and you could only review one of them, are you going to give air-time to one that sucks?

      • Defcubusal

        This is by far my favorite site for these reasons. I honestly don't want to read a review for a waste of time worthless indie game... I mean wouldn't that be a waste of my time? For all you people who want to waste your time reading about indie games that are dime a dozen quality I recommend 148apps.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        This is exactly how TouchArcade works, and I'm glad that there are people around here who aren't too daft to realize it. Our criteria for a review basically comes down to "Hey, this looks cool." There are exceptions with high profile games, which we do assign writers to, but those are few and far between... And thankfully, a lot of the time, those same high profile games fall comfortably under the "Hey, this looks cool" criteria. :)

    • Simon

      They review well known games. They're giving their opinion for you weigh up with others. But they recommend less well known games to help smaller developers get some publicity. It's a major part of this site, just read the forums and see how many threads for smaller games have active participation form the developers themselves.

      If you are coming here and treating each article about a game as an objective review then you have the wrong idea. Also if you think this is just a shill site.

      • Anonymous

        If you're admitting that the reviews are not objective, how is that not shilling?

      • Fnord

        Objectively, all games are a waste of time. Do they feed you? Do they clothe you? Do they give you a place to sleep?

        The only way to review a game is subjectively. (Well, you could run benchmarks, get FPS and polygon counts and the number of music voices used, but that's not any better.)

        If you don't like their point of view, go find another one. But all game reviews are, by nature, subjective.

    • http://twitter.com/NoSuperMan ImNoSuperMan

      http://appshopper.com/all/games/new/paid/

      About 400 new games show up every week on appstore. TA reviews about a dozen or so per week. Is that stat not enough to confirm that Eli (along with rest of the staff) didnt like the rest of the 95% + titles?

      Why they dont review all the games they didnt like is coz its impractical and no one will visit the site anymore if you have to go through 100 reviews per week (even if we remove the obviously crap games) just to find 10 good ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/silentrocco Rocco Menzel

    Wow, I can't put this game away. Thanks for the review. I love good match-3 games and I think, I got most of them, but this is by far the best. Yes, it doesn't look spectacular, but I think it's just great the way it is, it's all about the simple yet deep gameplay. Like Drop7, just clean. But it's soooo addicting. Spent the whole evening playing this. There is really a lot of strategy in it and I get better with every game. Love it. So, thanks again for the advice.

  • sai25

    Well... there goes my evening.

  • HelperMonkey

    Very thorough review. Nice.
    It sounds like a very well-conceived and unique game.
    Shame that the title is so generic that no one will remember it.

  • Anonymous

    I just wish it had an undo or a (single) save of some sort. I hate when I'm in a good game and it does something dorky (like kill me off or take the wrong path) b/c the touchscreen sensor flaked. 2 hrs of a good run, down the toilet!

  • P0tent1al

    OMG Brilliant game... please make a universal app or bring me an all singing all dancing iPad version... Thanks for the heads up on this one Eli.

  • Guest

    This is a game in desperate need of a campaign mode.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I don't know, I kind of think what makes it fun is that it -doesn't- have a campaign mode. It's like a roguelike in that it's just totally random and new every time.

      • Guest

        Yes, I understand what you mean and I agree. And I also get the joke of the game having these elaborate and funny intros that are fleshing out your protagonist when every hero will inevitably die in the dungeon. Maybe campaign mode was the wrong word. What I would like to see is having a particular goal in every dungeon, like collecting a certain amount of gold or killing a certain number of monsters or finding a special item. When you achieve the goal you get extra experience and an upgrade and teleport into the next dungeon with a new quest. This would add a purpose other than "beat the highscore" without touching the overall gameplay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001668170011 Froggy Fanstudio

    Sweet Froggy -a new challenging puzzle game for iPhone http://goo.gl/Fu9Ue. If you like Cat Physics you will love this one too.

  • Noviwan

    A poor review ... how can you review a game like this without comparing it to the inventor of this idea, Puzzle Quest?

    • TheTheory

      I actually agree that I was thinking Puzzle Quest throughout the entire review. Maybe said reviewer never played PQ?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cat-Astrophy/100000838113704 Cat Astrophy

        It doesn't matter if they haven't played it. But they should be thoroughly embarassed and step down from reviewing ever again if they not have heard it. It has been ported to pretty much EVERY SINGLE GAMING MEDIUM and has a sequel. The reviewers ignorance has caused him to give this clone more credit than it deserves because he honestly must think this designer came up with something awesome and original. It's really sad because garabge knock-offs like this get attention while there are still many unseen gems on the site. But hey, whoever pays for ad space right?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        The developers of Dungeon Raid don't advertise here. This is an unseen gem, I'm sorry if you disagree, but the good news is-- There's no shortage of other games for you to play on the App Store!

      • http://www.facebook.com/glaringradio Steven Got Snowdon

        It sure sounds like you haven't even bothered to play Dungeon Raid... The only thing they have in common is that you can cast spells to alter the game board, and even at that the way you cast spells is extremely different. So yeah, don't harp on about Puzzle Quest when the only basis of comparison you seemingly have is that OH MY GOD YOU MATCH THINGS AND THERE ARE SKULLS!!! PUZZLE QUEST RIP OFF!!!!

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Because I didn't think it was very relevant. Puzzle Quest is a long drawn out game with character classes and all kinds of RPG elements that you get very invested in to. Dungeon Raid is a quick pick up and play kind of game with no plot, no real character development, and basically a bunch of random options along the way that meld together very well.

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      Having played PQ 1 and 2, I can't say this is based on PQ. It has some common elements (dungeon delving genre & matching), but IMO it's quite a different game.
      Actually, I like DR a lot better.
      Going back to the map in PQ seemed so pointless. Lots of 'quests' which don't add anything to the game, etc.

  • Quickmix

    Great Game!

  • Banach-Tarski

    I liked this game a lot, but there are strategies that make it so that you can essentially beat the game and become virtually unkillable. I wasn't even sure I could be killed in order to end up on the leaderboard. (I ended up attacking with everything I had into a spiky skull just to commit suicide.)

    • Guest

      You didn't play on 'Harder', did you?

    • Kipple60

      I've been playing this for a few days and looking for some hints or tips. Would you mind telling me some of these strategies please? Thank you!

  • Otty

    Does nothing but crash on my device. Can't even get into the game. Waste of $3 unless they update it soon...

    • http://twitter.com/tfobf  tfobf

      update to os 4.2 or wait for the update, the author mailed me about it and it has been fixed and submitted to apple already

  • http://www.facebook.com/glaringradio Steven Got Snowdon

    Just as an addendum post to what I typed as a reply, here are several differences between this and Puzzle Quest.

    Puzzle Quest : Campaign Mode
    Dungeon Raid : One life, randomly generated items, enemies, roguelike

    Puzzle Quest : Match-3/4/5/6 either horizontally or vertically
    Dungeon Raid : Match potentially the entire board through line drawing in all directions

    Puzzle Quest : Set items, no random generation
    Dungeon Raid : Randomly generated items, equipment and level up bonuses

    Puzzle Quest : Ultimately unfair due to the AI pulling off ridiculous combos
    Dungeon Raid : The only AI that exists is how many skulls are on the board dictating how much damage you are dealt each turn

    Puzzle Quest : Tired and boring
    Dungeon Raid : Refreshing

    But anyway, calling this game a rip-off of Puzzle Quest is akin to saying Puzzle Quest is a ripoff of Bewelled because they share a single element in common. The only thing Dungeon Raid has in common with Puzzle Quest is that there are occasionally some skulls...

  • RekzkarZ.com

    Thanks for this review. I hate match-3 games & love this game. That should say something...?
    Excellent game, 5 stars. Complaining about graphics is like complaining about boring look of chess pieces or lack of graphics in a rogue-like. *it's the gameplay!!
    I post some strategy tips on my blog:
    http://rekzkarz.blogspot.com/2011/02/dungeon-raid-strategies.html
    I'd like to hear other people's strategies?
    rekzkarz.com

  • Dino Bianchini

    Does anyone know if there's a max level to this game?  I'm level 155 right now, with absolutely no ability to die without doing so on purpose >.<  A part of me just wants to keep going.

    And for those of you that like to know stats:

    Lvl 155
    Str 73
    Base Damage 193
    Bonus XP Chance 100%
    Dex 41
    Def per shield 159
    Bonus Shiled Chance 100%
    Vitality 15
    Max Health 660
    Bonus Potion Chance 100%
    Luck 17
    Health per Potion 17
    Bonus Coin Chance 100%
    Weapon Damage 68
    Amour Piercing 95%
    Defence 193
    Armour Durability 86%

    And the unmentionables
    Regen 83 health per round
    Leach Life is at 25%
    Spikes are at 39 per attacker
    Blunt is at 6
    Poison 52

    And my magics are all upgraded to max using
    Enchant 10
    Heal 10
    Counterattack 10
    Freeze 10

    So I basically just beat the game since the only upgrades i can get are to my strenght/dex/vit or Regen/Spikes/Blunt/Poison

    So i'm back to my original question of whether or not this game has a final level or something

Dungeon Raid Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5