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The glasses of madness...

Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer is indeed a hard game for me to review, as it has this amazing atmosphere that could only be compared to either the eyes of a mad man, or one of a religious experience. As a fan of other really darkly written pieces, such as Saya no Uta, I can appreciate the true nature of the story: It is merely the story of a man who wants to be proud of his work, and wants others to admire him. Naturally, there is a romance along with a twisted ego that spurs it on, but I will leave that for the story section, where it belongs. For those of you whom have never played this game, there will be spoilers ahead, so read on if you like...

The Gameplay
No matter how great the story is, the fact is that this is still a game and as such has gameplay that must be put under scrutiny. Well, to be frank and short the game is really divided into two minigames, and the game itself can be called a Dating Sim/Dungeon Building type of game. Now that is simplifying things a bit, but the basis is still the same.

During the day you go out and get traps by talking up the local Dungeoneer shopkeeper, whom will award you "tools" for your next video, either from how well you did on your last video or from how much you pull and kiss up to him. After this, you go to your favorite street where you play the "flirting" minigame where you convince the people you have been stalking to come home with you. I found this part to be entertaining at first, but there is a pattern and they always respond the same way as they did the first time, making it too easy of a system to memorize and completely manipulate. But then again, that was on my replay of the game as well.

The second minigame and the more "controversial" section of the game is the torture sessions that take place after convincing the person to come home with you. To be honest, despite what many may feel that this is a sadistic section, I had no issues with it what so ever. The theme of it may have been morally ambiguous, but the actual gameplay was simple enough. There are two bars, Life and Will, that you are trying to get to the lowest percent without breaking them. If they escape with either bar above the 20%, you lose and if they break either one as well, your videos will not be as good as if you had gotten a Beautiful Escape, where the person escapes permanently scarred for life with their life and will near nothing. The set up takes a while, mostly because you only pick up one tile at a time, but the hard part is not breaking the prisoner as they walk towards the door. I only achieved a beautiful escape only one time in all of my times trying to use the tools. Please note that most died in the water tank of all things. Overall, it felt a bit finicky, but it serves its purpose.

The Graphical Atmosphere
The graphics were dark and stylized to the theme of the game, which takes place in a definite moral gray area more then less. I personally liked the touch with the members of the Dungeoneers, as if they were not humans like the others. The music choice was absolutely essential to this project, as it just created the atmosphere that was already augmented by the interesting graphical choice.

The Story
The basics of the story is simple: Verge is a man whom wants praise and love. Now throw in the fact that he is a sadistic stalker whom hunts down victims and tortures them to try to earn this praise and love, well, it throws the story from a simple one to a much darker path. His only goal is to make daily love him, by creating the best torture session video he can. In many ways, I can sympathize with him and kind of understand where he is coming from. Not from the torturing of course, but there is a major parallel to something we all know and love here.

Deep inside of the wired, there is a small site called the Dungeoneers, where torture videos are uploaded for reviews and people try to gain recognition for what they have done. Now because it is so well known, No one really believes that it is real, and this is something I know to be true. Just because something is said on the net does not make it false. Now the fact is that just looking at this here, it is clear that this is a twisted commentary on the game making community as a whole, where not many are good enough in the eyes of another as they release their games. Hell, this review I am typing even now may be one of the many things that drives Verge to hate, and try to improve. The last line in the game can be considered a complete acceptance, to just say that this is what I made and I like it.

Now for me, what most people were stressing about this game is the fact that the theme is about torturing people, and for that theme to be so prevalent in this work, I tip my hat to the creator of the game. The fact is that the topic material can be considered bad on most moral scales, and down right twisted on others makes for a interesting read on my part. I had no problems what so ever with this theme, nor did it effect me much. It was more or less just there, just like Verge's empty life. It is what it is, and personally it just adds a flavor that would have been missing in verge's life, his glasses if you will.

Enjoyment Value
Completely gauged on how much you are sucked into the story or not. If you are absorbed in the atmosphere and story, you will enjoy it very much, and may even sing songs of praise, but if you were expecting genius gameplay then the fun might be toned down to boredom on the players part. For the must part, my advice is to get absorbed in the story or get out.

Near none. While playing around with the dungeons to get a better score can be fun, I can say for one I could only replay this game after I forgot most of the story. More or less, it is like a book; After you read it, it is hard to reread due to knowing most of the story on touch. The same applies to here. Still, stash it away somewhere because in a year from now, I can almost promise you will enjoy it just like the first time.

Finishing move
It is a good read, but the gameplay feels aged almost like a dos title. The themes are strong, and it is indeed morally ambiguous, but there are small flaws that just don't fit. And with that, I award this game a 4 stars, docking only one if the gameplay was a bit more fluid.


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Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
This is a fantastic review.
Thanks a lot for this review!

I'm glad you enjoyed the game's story and atmosphere. And it's actually good to know that someone managed to enjoy the game while not being bothered or disturbed by its theme.

Yeah, I agree that the appeal of the gameplay elements is completely tied to the story, and it would probably be very boring and shallow if it were not for the theme (Pippin Barr said something similiar in his review). But I guess the gameplay still serves its function, it's interactive enough not to let the game become a visual novel and lower the player's involvement with everything.
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