DICE Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 6.5
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 7.1
Review by Andy Levine
DICE, an acronym for “DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises”, follows a group of futuristic kids on their adventurous quest to purge the universe of evil. By piloting a selection of different transformable dinosaur robots, the group battles across a variety of environments as well as competes in sanctioned racing events. While this beat ‘em up style videogame is perhaps intended for a younger audience, anyone looking for some straightforward robot-mashing action should certainly give DICE a try.

In DICE, the gamer initially chooses from a few basic robot models, but as time passes they can be evolved into mighty killing machines. The single-player campaign consists of 16 missions, but there are generally two different mission types. The first type is button-mashing oriented, and you can expect to kill a seemingly infinite amount of baddies here. Simply put, you’ll be put into one room where you must completely obliterate every other creature in there with you. Once the room is cleared, you then move on to the next level—and so on. Occasionally there will be a generic puzzle to solve, such as hitting switches or arranging objects in a certain order, but for the most part you’ll be mashing away at relentless enemies. The pilots also possess the ability to ‘libertize’ a robot, which will allow it to switch between its attack and race modes during any given level. For example, though using the attack mode during fighting levels seems like an obvious choice, sometimes it is more effective to ram opponents into walls instead of beating them to death. After the main stages have been completed, there is one final boss battle to conquer, and only by exploiting its weaknesses will you be able to reign supreme. Once you finish mashing a boss down to the ground, a mission ranking is awarded depending on how fast the level was completed. Metal chips can be collected throughout the levels, which can be later used to unlock new content at the game’s garage. Items such as new characters, robots, upgradeable parts, and battle arenas can all be purchased here. The other type of mission, the racing type, puts five racers on an F-zero-like course. There are no power-ups available and the sense of speed isn’t exactly jaw dropping, but the level design is definitely the main attraction. Instead of unfolding across boring tracks with a few arbitrary twist and turns, the courses here are filled with jumps, shortcuts, rotating track segments, and tons of other zany obstacles. While it is fun to take full advantage of a robot’s boost feature, it is still very easy to go flying right off the track if you aren’t careful. The mechanics behind DICE aren’t overly complicated, but its basic foundation makes it a lot easier for the younger crowd to jump right in and start playing.

DICE is filled with a smooth, nonstop flow of action without the hassles of an overly complicated storyline, which makes it a fun game to play without having to worry about missing vital information. In the battle levels, clearing out a room of enemies isn’t especially difficult, but you can use different attack combinations to keep things interesting. Although there is only one designated attack key, you can still string together basic combos with the assistance of a ‘bot’. One bot can be selected before each level, and during combat it can be used to perform a special ability. Bots can be used to lock-on to several targets simultaneously to offer an effective long-range attack. If a robot is completely overwhelmed with enemies and takes enough damage, it will overheat, subsequently forcing its pilot to eject. At this point the gamer will control a lone character while he waits for his ship to cool down. While the pilot is capable of performing melee attacks, it’s much safer to search for temporary protection rather than trying to beat a horde of mechanical warriors with your bare fists. The game’s action can become pretty intense, but towards the end of each level DICE’s fairly unintuitive design will leave some veteran gamers bored with its growing tedium. Nonetheless, gamers not demanding an in-depth style of gameplay will be well satisfied with the sheer number of different enemies to be confronted throughout the game.

The racing portion of DICE, on the other hand, is a little more challenging than the combat. It’s very easy to get carried away on a straightaway by abusing the boost button, but there are perhaps too many blind opportunities to lose control of your vehicle and go flying off the track. Even though there is a course map to help guide you, the robots simply aren’t capable of maneuvering smoothly around some of the sharper bends. As a result, the robots frequently fly into walls or are launched off the course—which can be frustrating to the younger demographic. Choosing the correct robot depends on how you like to race, but whether you choose a light bot or a clunky machine, you are bound to run into crushing disasters sooner or later. The lack of power-ups might be a turnoff to some, but you can still ram and slam opponents to your heart’s desire. Aside from these minor flaws, the racing part of the game isn’t all that bad. Indeed, it offers a welcome break from the endless button-mashing action and brings together two different gaming elements nicely. The more ambitious players out there will certainly be left wanting more from DICE, but those looking for a basic action game should feel right at home.

The overall presentation of DICE isn’t particularly impressive, but then it isn’t horrible either. The robots are well detailed for the most part and perform some smooth animations, but they are also plagued with the infamous rough edges that seem to plague most PS2 games. The environments, in both the attack and racing modes, are to be praised for their creative design, but most of the textures are plain and don’t really grab the attention. Still, the special effects present from exploding laser beams and the like are vibrantly colored and entertaining to watch—even if they aren’t overly sophisticated. Likewise, the sound effects consist of what you would expect from a game like this, including generic robotic clanking, futuristic laser beams and missile projectile noises, and, of course, the obligatory crazed battle cries. Generally speaking, DICE maintains an authentic Japanese feel throughout the entire adventure, but it doesn’t offer anything that will inspire a sense of awe.

The multiplayer portion of the game consists of battles versus an AI or human opponent. Each player can choose their own robot to pilot as well as one bot assistant. As your progress in the single-player game continues, more battle stages are unlocked, but from the start only one level is available. Each confrontation starts with both pilots outside of their machines so they can engage in hand-to-hand combat. Once the fight begins to escalate, they then have the opportunity to hop into their robots and start smacking each other round with metallic gusto. These battles rarely last beyond a minute, but you can set different time restrictions if you desire. Once a pilot’s health meter is drained to zero, the bout is over and the winner is declared. While these matches are simple and won’t offer eons of playtime, it can still be somewhat entertaining to smash a friend around without the aid of a giant transformer robot for a while.

DICE for the PS2 is a simple action game intended for amateur gamers everywhere. Its addictive robot transformation and customization appeal makes DICE rewarding the more it’s played, but it’s also engaging to simply indulge for a few minutes every once in a while. Even though DICE’s relatively simplistic gameplay won’t earn it any Game of the Year awards, if you happen to be a fan of the show or are just looking for something far removed from the gaming mainstream, then you’ll be able to squeeze fun out of DICE.