Retro Gaming Challenge Week Ten: Devil Dice (PSOne)

Devil Dice is one of the best games I’ve ever played, even though I’m not even the best player of it that I know. You must play it. Plus the results of the Master System voting, and the chance to vote for Atari Lynx games!
And lo, week ten of the retro games challenge appears. It’s like time is passing, and I’m still playing retro games for the heck of it… and why not?
For those coming in late, my mission over the next 52 weeks is to play a different retro game each week, making notes and jotting down thoughts as I go. My reward for finishing will be a week where I get to play my all-time-favourite retro game, Taito’s Bubble Bobble for a full week. Until I hit week 52, however, I live a Bubble Bobble free existence.
Life is hard sometimes.
The story so far…
Retro Gaming Challenge Week One: Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Two: Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)
Retro Games Challenge Week Four: Space Invaders (2600)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Five: Three Dirty Dwarves (Saturn)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Six: Trog (NES)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Seven: Robocop vs The Terminator (Megadrive)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Eight: James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (Xbox)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Nine: Godzilla Generations (Dreamcast)

Devil Dice: From demo to delight

I can all too clearly remember the first time I played Devil Dice. It was a demo on a cover disc on the official magazine (hey kids, magazines were this thing where the first disc-based systems could release short time demos of games before we had PSN and Xbox Live. Different time, onions on belt, yadda yadda), and I figured it was a very neat concept. It hooked me enough to track down a copy the next time I was near a games store (those used to be things, too, youngsters!), and that’s what I’ve been playing all week.

Look at that adorable little Devil face. How could you not love him?
Look at that adorable little Devil face. How could you not love him?

The concept behind Devil Dice is pretty simple. You’re a devil running around a small square field onto which dice are zapped by lightning bolts. If the field fills, the game is over, and the only way to clear each die from the field is to match the faces on each die in the corresponding number amount.
 
Is there a plot? No. I even checked the manual to be sure. It doesn't matter that Devil Dice is a plot free zone, anyway.
Is there a plot?
No. I even checked the manual to be sure.
It doesn’t matter that Devil Dice is a plot free zone, anyway.

So to clear two, you match two dice with a two face by rolling them together, to clear threes you need three dice, and so on. As matches occur, the dice sink into the playfield, but they’re always replaced, and in many game modes at a rapidly increasing pace. You can’t ‘match’ ones, but instead if you roll a one over a sinking-already-matched set, it will instead match every other one on the board and eliminate them.
Pretty basic concept, right?

Devil Dice: The beautiful game

The beauty of Devil Dice is twofold. Firstly, it is a simple idea, but it’s one that’s realised across a smart selection of game modes. There’s basic trial mode, either endless or to a time limit where the dice just keep on coming, battle mode, where you seek to match more dice than another devil on the same board, wars mode, where you face off against an array of computer-controlled devils in a frantic and often bewildering race to not die, and puzzle mode, where you have to finish set combinations in a limited number of moves. This allows Devil Dice to offer fast paced action gameplay or slower, more considered puzzle play to suit your mood.

Wars mode is chaos. Sheer, unbridled, lunatic chaos.
Wars mode is chaos.
Sheer, unbridled, lunatic chaos.

Secondly, it’s perfectly executed. I don’t say that lightly, but in the case of Devil Dice it’s true. Novices can simply bump around the filling board hoping for matches to keep them alive that bit longer, but once your brain clicks into that “puzzle” mode where you start thinking strategically, and especially if you remember that the opposing sides of a die always add up to seven, you can really start planning ahead and realising high scores, or surviving, or solving puzzles. The puzzle mode is an especial delight, simply because once you get past the very basic puzzles, working them out involves some real thinking. Sure, you’ll fail a few times, but when you do get them right, you’ll feel like a utter genius. Not too many puzzle games get that so very right as Devil Dice does.

Devil Dice: There is another

I should point out the other reason I love this particular game at this point.
I love Devil Dice because it’s an absolute favourite of my better half, and one of the few games that she’s way better at than I am. It’s not even close. It wouldn’t even be close if I disconnected her controller before we started playing, and believe me, I’ve been tempted sometimes.
I’m a competitive gamer at the best of times, but I’m not even close to her skill level, and as such it’s simply just a joy to watch her play the single player modes, or if I’m feeling stupid brave, taking her on in battle mode. Yes, I’ll always lose, but I’m cool with that, because gaming is at its best when it’s done with friends and loved ones. She’s both, and she’s brilliant at Devil Dice.

If you can remember that the opposite side of a die always adds up to 7, you'll do well. If you can't remember that, I can't help you.
If you can remember that the opposite side of a die always adds up to 7, you’ll do well.
If you can’t remember that, I can’t help you.

It’s something to do with spacial logic, or her grasp of mathematics. Or maybe I’m actually much worse at Devil Dice than my brain can allow me to safely comprehend, but in any case, it’s a great game for us as a couple on that simple basis alone. It makes her happy to play it, and that makes me happy. Although this week she’s been very busy, and, I think, slightly narked that she hasn’t been able to play it as much as she might like. This, however, is why there will always be a copy of Devil Dice, and its PS2 sequel, Bombastic in my home.

Devil Dice: OK, you’ve convinced me. It’s great. Where can I score a copy?

Devil Dice isn’t sadly available on PSN as far as I can tell, which means if you need to play it, you’ll have to buy a physical copy. The US version, I should note, has a horrible cover compared to either the Japanese or Euro editions, even though the Euro edition (which is what I’ve got, proudly proclaiming itself a product of Austria) has about as generic and ’90s-era a cover as possible.

I feel like I should put a paper bag over this cover. I mean, really?
I feel like I should put a paper bag over the US cover.
IT HAS A FOUR NEXT TO A THREE ON THE DICE FACES AND A SIX NEXT TO A ONE! DO THESE PEOPLE KNOW NOTHING? THAT CANNOT HAPPEN!

Ah, the US version was published by THQ. That explains a lot.
You can hunt for a copy on eBay (affiliate link) here.
Devil Dice is a superb game, if I haven’t already made that blindingly obvious, and it’s easily the best game I’ve played as part of this retro challenge to date. Given the way the Internet seems to want to vote for games, it’s entirely likely it’ll be the best game I play all year. Play it if you can. Do it now.

Next week

Voting was a little slower for the Master System challenge — maybe it’s true that online there is only the NES — but two front runners emerged in the form of Asterix and Ultima IV. Asterix carried the day by a slim margin, but not to fear, Ultima fans, as Ultima IV is a game I’ve already reviewed here at Fat Duck Tech.
So it’s off to the 8-bit world of Goscinny and Uderzo for me next week, followed by my first portable challenge. For the moment I’m going to work through platforms before declaring theme weeks, and I fancy killing some batteries playing some Atari Lynx titles.
But which game should I play? Click below to cast your vote, and feel free to leave any comments or thoughts below or via Twitter while you’re at it!
[socialpoll id=”2366386″]

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

1 thought on “Retro Gaming Challenge Week Ten: Devil Dice (PSOne)

  1. Indeed it is very very good ^_^
    But when you finish the 100 puzzles, there’s 1000 more for you, with the extra challenge of getting the stars!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.