Dungeon of Elements is a color-matching puzzle game that borrows the Dr Mario formula from Nintendo. This in itself is interesting: There are Tetris clones galore, but fewer developers seem interested in adapting and evolving Mario’s pill-popping puzzle shenanigans.
Dungeon of Elements isn’t simply Dr Mario wrapped up in a tunic and leather breeches, however. Frogdice Games (the makers of Tower of Elements, ReignMaker) have added some intriguing RPG elements to the core puzzle experience, making for a deep game that ought to keep you occupied for hours.
You play through the game as a young alchemy apprentice who’s been recruited to help restore the trade’s respectability. There was a time when alchemy thrived and was used to better the world, but those days are long gone. Maybe you can restore the magical science’s respectability – with a lot of dexterity and a little luck.
Each level of Dungeon of Elements is occupied by differently-colored enemies, including elementals, rats, orcs, skeletons, and more. Colored capsules fall from the top of the screen, and turn into smoke clouds when they hit an object. Placing three similarly-colored smoke clouds adjacent to an enemy will kill it. In fact, this is one notable difference between Dr Mario and Dungeon of Elements: The former’s viruses will only die under a horizontal or vertical pill line, whereas Dungeon of Elements simply requires the smoke clouds to be linked.
The stage ends when all the enemies have been cleared away, though there are also instances of bosses rearing their shaggy heads. Pill combinations of any color will damage these baddies, though taking them down is still harder than it sounds. For instance, there’s a giant rat boss that’s capable of summoning smaller minions that manage to squirm in your way just as you’re about to drop a pill-bomb on its pointed head.
You can brew up items via the power of alchemy to help give you an edge, however. Weapons can slay enemies instantly, sparing you the hassle of eliminating them with pills. Boots slow the descent of pills. “Boomers” are super-pills that create handy explosions.
Alchemy doesn’t just make levels easier. It makes them faster as well. Dungeon of Elements’ single biggest flaw is that levels tend to drag. There are a lot of enemies to dispose of in the average puzzle, so don’t be surprised if a butt-groove gradually appears in your computer chair.
As a whole, Dungeon of Elements makes creative alterations to the Dr Mario formula, and the end result is an enjoyable puzzle game. Even better, you can play it without wondering how many malpractice suits Mario has dealt with since Dr Mario first hit store shelves in 1990 (though however many red marks Dr Mario has against his name, “Dr Luigi” surely has double that number).