One day a lowly Blockold – a creature that is half block, part Kobold – stealthily snuck into the castle of TrouserHeart, King of the Dwarves, and made off with his royal leather pantaloons! Lord TrouserHeart – upon discovering this most heinous treachery against the sanctity of his kingdom’s peace – immediately takes up sword and shield, as standing for this can not be done. Whether Lord TrouserHeart – running about the kingdom in his boxer shorts – can save not only his favorite leather pants, but the entire realm as well, is a question only you can answer.
In 10tons’ recent TrouserHeart (out now, $2.99) you take control of the titular king – now forced to run about in his boxer shorts – as he embarks on a top-down action RPG adventure, complete with beautiful 3D graphics. The title keeps things simple with a virtual analog joystick on the lower left, and a singular action button – for the swinging of Lord TrouserHeart’s sword – on the lower right. The game furthermore features a configuration option that lets you set the joystick to either a fixed or drifting alignment, based on whatever your personal preference should happen to be.
While the ability to run around smacking things – and little else – might sound overly simplistic, let me assure you right now that TrouserHeart manages to be quite the challenge with that alone. Many of the enemies in this game – especially if you play on the Hardcore difficulty – are quite capable of putting down the goodly king in a hit or two, and all of them have very different behaviors and abilities. How you approach an opponent – and also knowing when to back off – are both extremely vital to your success, so it’s a very good thing those controls – simple as they are – have rock solid precision.
In each of the game’s various dungeons – where devious despots dwell – you will lead King TrouserHeart through a linear series of rooms, all of which are selected entirely at random. Perhaps the next room will contain many difficult enemies, perhaps it will have a breakaway floor that collapses as you walk over it, or perhaps it will be filled with slippery ice and harsh blowing winds. Spread throughout each of these dungeons are also a handful of locations marked with campfires on the mini-map, which are rooms that serve as checkpoints in the case of an untimely demise.
I wouldn’t – despite this randomized room factor – necessarily claim that TrouserHeart is actually a proper Roguelike experience, as the game’s dungeons are still far more structured than the label generally implies. The title does – however – feature an optional permadeath toggle, which can be turned on regardless of whether you’re experiencing TrouserHeart on its casual or hardcore setting. When permadeath is on it certainly does add a whole extra layer of complexity, with the player suddenly having to decide if a room’s sole treasure chest – which might spawn many enemies when opened – is worth the risk.
You will – at the conclusion of each of TrouserHeart’s various dungeons – come up against one of the title’s many giant boss battles, all of which are unique events unto themselves. Easily these fights are some of the most interesting moments in the game, with the player tackling everything from a giant slime blob that heals itself by absorbing minions – to multiple wizard shooting out spell spreads in a manner reminiscent to a Bullet Hell shooter – to even having a giant tentacle monster that constantly spawns lesser helper tentacles. Thankfully – should you happen to fail the encounter – you are able to restart directly at the boss’s room, at least so long as you aren’t playing with the permadeath option turned on.
Upon the successful completion of a dungeon – which can then later be retried – King TrouserHeart will return triumphantly back to his castle with all of the loot, still sans his pants. This money can then be spent to upgrade any piece of the king’s gear – such as his sword, his shield, his armor, or even his crown – but it can never buy him a replacement pair of pants. One of the nicest things about the upgrade system is that at specific upgrade milestones the entire appearance of Lord TrouserHeart’s gear will change, leaving him an even more badass – but ultimately pantless – looking dwarf.
Eventually – after unsuccessfully searching for your trousers in many dungeons – the king will decide it’s time to look for his pants elsewhere, meaning it’s finally time to hit the road. Of course, reaching the next region isn’t going to be as easy as simply finishing off the last dungeon in the area, instead you’re going to have to fight a long and arduous journey to get there. These transition stages take the form a long singular room that only ends after a fixed number of enemies have been defeated, with no save points along the way, and will really put your skills to the test.
I would like to personally assure you all that this game – despite it’s simple premise of endless slapping things with a sword – is actually quite an engaging experience, and one you’ll find difficult to put down. The two difficulty settings – each of which can have permadeath independently toggled on – will ensure that everyone finds a challenge level that meets their personal needs, and even a harder one worth coming back for afterwards. Furthermore – although I won’t be telling you what is – I will further guarantee that you are going to positively adore TrouserHeart’s ending, and the final boss encounter is one you won’t soon forget.
With matters of TrouserHeart’s gameplay now out of the way, I would like to take a moment to close this review by discussing the title’s simple – yet eye pleasing – 3D graphics. Where as many games these days strive hard for a photorealistic effect – even if their art style itself isn’t entirely realistic – TrouserHeart eschews all that, instead aiming for an unabashedly cartoony presentation. My favorite part of the presentation is how – now matter how much heavily armored up the dwarven king becomes – Lord TrouserHeart’s boxers are always visible, in all of their heart covered glory. While the amusing visuals are definitely enjoyable to look at, it’s even more impressive that everything runs flawlessly – without any tinges of hiccups – upon the generally forgotten iPod Touch 4.
iFanzine Verdict: TrouserHeart is an enjoyable top-down action RPG – with multiple difficulties, including optional permadeath – that will heavily engage you, despite the simplicity of its precise controls. The end result is that the game can easily accommodate those just looking to smack stuff around, people who want their enemies to bump back, and even players who demand the utmost of brutal challenges. Furthermore – despite being a recent title made with 3D graphics – the adventure will run on a wide range of models, including the lowly – and often unsupported – iPod Touch 4 itself.