Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers is the third title in the Dillon series for the Nintendo DS. It’s a tower defence/beat-em-up/racing combo, set in a fantasy wild west world inhabited by furry animals. Sounds like a winner for Nintendo right? They do love their cute animal humanoids… The question is though, is Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers any good, or is it all fluff?
Building on the tower defence success of previous titles, Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers aims to liven up the pace by having players mowing down Grocks – the bad guys from previous instalments, in Mad Max style road races. It’s a cool idea and helps to split up the gameplay from being purely strategic tower defence planning. In the meantime, you’ve also got the township to explore between missions – with residents to interact with and secrets to discover – don’t worry I won’t lay out any spoilers.
The core theme of the game however, is to protect your small town of furries from destruction by the Grocks. You do this by hiring gunners, placing them around the town and using Dillon’s crazy spinning armadillo abilities to compete in arena battles with the Grocks. Is he actually an armadillo? I’m not really too sure, but he has a Crocodile Dundee hat! In Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers, it feels like you’re fighting towards a goal – which was reportedly lacking in previous titles.
Despite this change in pace for the Dillon series, Dead Heat Breakers falls a little flat in terms of the difficulty curve of the gameplay. Within the first 15 minutes of gameplay, you’ve pretty much hit the hardest that it’s going to get – the game turns into a button-mashing slog-fest. It kinda renders the racing and arena battles a tad repetitive, as you grind down the same old Grocks for resources to build improvements – resulting in a fairly shallow gameplay experience. It all depends on the kind of game you want though – for casual gamers Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers will most likely be a hit, as it’s kind of a no-brainer with the exception of gunner placement.
One cool thing about Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers is the character creation. The game begins by transforming your Mii into one of the aforementioned furries for you to play as – although your time will be split between them and Dillon. The character creation is quite a bit of fun when you get turned into a bizarre sheep man! Characters throughout the world of Dead Heat Breakers feel a tad empty however, and I’m not sure why so many are either Australian, or not voice-acted at all – the last thing you want to do in a furious battle race is to be reading text pop-ups on the side of the screen. I’m sure for long-time fans of the series the characters are great, but for me they were a little flat – not really providing a hook into the story behind the attack of the Grocks or the motives of the survivors.
The graphics are great on the DS, running smoothly with no framerate stutters – even on zoomed in scenes and fast paced battle races. The colour pallet is somewhat bland though – with the exception of Dillon and the odd luminously coloured Grock. That said I really like the Western theme, with the dusty deserts and rocky outcrops coming to life – not to mention the interesting little town you’ve got to explore between missions. Western games are few and far between for some reason, so it’s a welcome change on the gaming scene.
Overall the game has quite a slow pace, with the player having to go back to replay missions that weren’t completed 100%. The basic combat always left me wanting more than just a rinse and repeat style of play – proving that gamers can’t be bought off by flashy graphics if there’s little substance behind it. Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers feels rather casual – not something I’d pick up to have a solid gaming session on, but I would go to it for a laid back time – racing through the cracked desert roads or planning my next town defence against the Grocks.
Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers is a unique title on the DS market that tries to blend the tower defence and racing genres. It’s easy to pick up and play, with a fairly shallow learning curve that is accessible to all ages – a trademark of Nintendo system games. Despite these positives, Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers is certainly not worth the £34.99 price tag, due to the fairly repetitive and basic battles. If you’re looking for a casual gaming experience that blends strategic tower defence and a little bit of racing though, look no further than Dillon’s Dead Heat Breakers.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.