Tao's Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal - Staff Review  

Curse of the Demon Interface
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

30-50 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Tao's village has been attacked by monsters that have managed to escape from Mondominio's monster tower. Tao, a young Air Speller who, luckily, learned how to use magic right before the attack, must travel to Mondominio and find a cure. Tao's Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal is a simple game made in the same style as Azure Dreams. Basically, players arm themselves as well as they can and try to climb to the top of a forty floor dungeon along with a few tamed monsters. Unlike Azure Dreams, Tao doesn't start from level one every time he enters the tower, each floor is larger and not randomly generated, and there are some useful spells Tao can learn, one of which transports the hero to any floor he's used the spell on.

   Seeing as how it's a monster tower, Tao will find himself fighting quite a few enemies along his journey. There are two basic types of weapons he can use that will greatly affect his fighting style: swords and rods. Swords allow high melee damage, but magic can only be used with a rod equipped. The entire tower is like one giant turn-based tactical battle. Every action taken, aside from changing direction, requires a turn, so it's best not to waste them when enemies are present. Though it is roughly the same battle system as in Azure Dreams, Tao quickly gains the ability to destroy nearly every non-boss enemy in one or possibly two hits. Combined with the large range of certain spells and the low cost of MP healing items, the only thing holding Tao back is his very limited inventory. This, combined with horrible AI, takes virtually all of the strategy out of normal battles and makes the game very monotonous.

Beat up monsters and steal their eggs? Beat up monsters and steal their eggs?

   To elaborate on the poor AI, allied monsters will often walk right into an enemy's attack, ignore the fact that they have special abilities except when it is pointless to use them, and get in the way when pushing blocks or trying to solve the game's few puzzles. Despite their suicidal tendencies, the game is still quite easy for the most part. Tao rarely has a problem destroying enemies before they even get close enough to cause damage, provided he sees them coming and they don't also have long range spells. Then again, seeing enemies coming can often be a real problem.

   Tao's Adventure features one of the worst interfaces to appear in any RPG ever created. When moving in any direction besides north, it is difficult to see enemies coming. While it isn't horrible when moving east or west, Tao might as well be blind while moving south if he doesn't have the map open. Despite the DS having two screens, the map is very small and is placed right on top of the main screen when it's open. Also, regardless of its vital importance to being able to locate enemies, the map often closes automatically. The simple actions that cause this range from picking up items to casting spells. Should a player wish to keep the map open as much as possible, they will have to manually open the map literally thousands of times over the course of the game.

   What, then, goes in the DS's other screen? A simple menu and an oversized compass that is used to move Tao. There is so much blank space in the bottom screen that there is no excuse for the top one being so cluttered. By simply rearranging things a bit, the interface could have been a lot better. It doesn't end there, though. In adding the ability for Tao to move in response to the stylus, it seems to have been decided that pretty much all of the buttons should serve no purpose, despite there being many useful things that they could have done. Finally, there is quite a bit of a delay in most menus and they are rarely user-friendly. The interface as a whole is so user-unfriendly that it essentially ruins the game. The localization is good enough to offer the players some stability, but it isn't enough to save the game.

Story is not Tao's strong-point, though it's still an improvement. Story is not Tao's strong-point, though it's still an improvement.

   Though Azure Dreams came out nearly a decade ago, Tao's Adventure is thoroughly unoriginal. Aside from the changes mentioned already, the only real differences are the lack of the town-building systems and changes to the friendship system. Neither of these changes is for the better.

   One good thing about Tao's Adventure is that the story is a bit better than that of its predecessor. Though it's mostly about getting to the top of the tower, there are a few subgoals such as saving villagers along the way. The story also touches on concepts such as prejudice and whether or not it's right for Tao to be stealing monster eggs. The efforts here are commendable, but the storyline still falls short of most other RPGs and isn't enough to fill forty floors worth of dungeon.

   As one might expect, forty giant floors of a dungeon take a while to traverse. This is especially true due to Tao's lack of storage space and the game's habit of making players exit the tower after every objective is complete, often without allowing them to complete that floor, forcing them to repeat it. It's possible to finish the game in about thirty hours, but quite a bit of time can be wasted making repeat trips for all of the game's treasure. This can easily bump it up to fifty hours.

   Contrary to what one might expect, the tower's forty floors have very little variety in music, and the music it does have isn't suited for a very long dungeon. The background music often becomes very grating in less time than it takes to complete a single floor and only changes every five. Sound effects are also generally of poor quality.

   Tao's Adventure has its share of problems, but it does have nice 3D graphics. Many sections of the tower have their own visual theme and there are a number of different monsters with interesting artwork to go along with them. The majority of the high level spell effects are also very visually appealing.

   Despite being, in a way, the successor of Azure Dreams, Tao's Adventure ended up being inferior to it in nearly every way. Furthermore, the interface is so bad that it ruins what would have been only a slightly below average dungeon crawler. In the end, Tao's Adventure doesn't do anything original and is similar enough to Azure Dreams that most players are probably better off playing that instead.

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