The dungeon crawl: A type of role playing adventure in which the character fights through an extensive labyrinth, killing monsters and looting treasure. The term often carries a negative connotation because they often lack depth. I could find no better term to describe this game. I originally picked up a copy of Tao: Curse of the Demon Seal curious if its unique magic system could spice things up. 20 hours and 30 levels of dungeon later, I regret that decision.[p]Tao is the story of a young boy in the Bente tribe named Tao. The Bente are well known for two things: casting magic by drawing symbols in the air, and having used human lives as weapons long ago. Because of the latter, they are shunned by society and spend their days secluded on a tropical island, passing their skills down through generations. But the Bente’s seclusion comes to an abrupt end when a sudden monster attack turns everyone to stone. Only Tao and a few others escape to try and save the petrified villagers. To find a cure, Tao is sent to search Demon Tower; a monster filled labyrinth that was secure from break-outs until its sealing rune was recently destroyed. Surrounding the tower is Modomino village; a place that remembers well the crimes of the Bente. In order to conquer the tower, Tao will have to work hard at maintaining his equipment, as well as his relations with the people.[p]Plot is relatively sparse after that. Every so often after ascending through the tower, Tao interacts with some of the townsfolk, but they rarely develop any kind of depth.[p]Though you can use both the touch screen and the conventional controls to move Tao, you’re forced to use the touch screen for any other actions. There are a few other inconveniences with controls, including the fact that every person you walk into will automatically talk to you, and you have to walk in the opposite direction to break away. [p]The tower is where all of the actual combat takes place. Each floor is laid out like a maze with monsters and treasure dispersed throughout. To get to the next floor you just have to find the exit, and there is rarely anything more complicated than flipping a switch or two to get there. Though the way your character moves might trick you into believing this is an action RPG, it is in fact turn based with every step you take counting as one turn. If you see a monster on the screen (and you will almost always see only one at a time) it will move one space for every move or action Tao takes. Though it seems like this would allow the player to create thoughtful strategies, in fact, you’re best tactic is to wait for a monster to come to you, and then whack it with your stick. Gameplay boils down to; walk walk walk, whack whack whack, heal, repeat. I was bored after the second floor.[p]Perhaps to draw in some Pokemon fanatics, this game also allows you to capture and train monsters you’ve caught in the tower. While it does make the game more interesting than simply grinding through each floor, your monster allies have little use, particularly because of the narrow corridors that only allow one character through at a time.[p]Although there is a variety of spells with different effects, most of them are useless. Even damage spells fail to do more harm than a simple attack. Despite the futility of magic, the magic system itself is the most innovative aspect of the game. After selecting to cast magic from the menu, you then must draw a symbol for the desired spell. Even if you don’t get it just right, the game is very good at figuring out what you wanted to draw, and all the symbols are listed in your spellbook for you to check at any time. It’s a clever idea and I give the makers credit for trying something different, but it doesn’t change the fact that the magic is weak and all you end up doing anyway is beating the monsters with your staff. I find this ironic, as the magic system was intended to be this game’s biggest "draw."[p]After reaching a new level, Tao can teleport back to the town to rest up, restock items and try to restore the Bente’s honor by lavishing the town with gifts. There are also weapons and armor dealers, but there is a major problem with all of the equipment in this game: You can’t see any of their stats! The only clue you have is each item’s price, after that you’re just guessing the shield you bought is better than one you just found.[p]Even if the magic drawing system was more than just a fancy way to select "fire" or "cure," it wouldn’t change the fact that this is just a poor RPG with little more than floor after floor of bashing monsters one at a time. I can see perhaps buying this game for a kid who just wants to grind through monsters and thinks drawing magical doodles is cool, but for anyone else, this game is going to be flat out boring.
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