Every now and then, there comes along a game so epic, so groundbreaking, so gosh-darn revolutionary that it is lauded by reviewers and gamers for years. Dink Smallwood… is not one of them, but it IS a hilarious action/RPG with tons of replay value. And what’s more, it’s free! Yes, that’s right, folks, Dink Smallwood, a game once sold in stores, is now available for download as freeware off of RTSoft’s website, and that is only the first of many reasons I laud this game.
Dink Smallwood is the story of a young pig farmer, Dink Smallwood, who dreams of having grand adventures, becoming a hero, fighting bad guys and monsters, the whole nine yards. But, unfortunately, he’s a weak pig farmer with nothing to fight. Fortunately for him, destiny decides to give Dink a kick in the pants. While out collecting acorns for his mother, Dink runs across a strange wizard who offers him the magic spell of fireball, quite an ironic turn since when Dink gets home, he finds his house burning to the ground, his mother, dead. After lamenting a bit, he goes to live with his aunt and her abusive husband. Soon after, he uncovers a plot by a shadowy society known and thus begins his adventures. Tralala.
Okay, so perhaps the game isn’t extremely plot heavy, this time it doesn’t matter. The game’s highlights are humor and diversity. A throwback to games such as Secret of Monkey Island, Dink Smallwood is chock full of clever, lewd, and sometimes just downright wrong humor. Most of this humor comes in the form of the dialogue between Dink and people/places/inanimate objects. Looking at objects is just half the fun, to get the full, hurricane force humor, you have to hit things as well. See a cute little duckie? Hit it and watch it run around with blood gushing out after you lop off its head. Don’t like the looks of a bed? Hit it and watch Dink deliver some odd, yet humorous analysis of the situation. Though not recommended for those people who dislike jokes that could be considered cruel or disgusting, for those who can stand it, play the game.
Control in the game is good, overall. You can choose to control Dink using either keyboard/mouse or a gamepad. Unfortunately for me, I was not able to use my gamepad due to too much signal input, so I had to use the keyboard/mouse, but it was not too bad. You can set up the keys to your liking to attack, use magic, access your inventory, etc. There aren’t a lot of buttons to push to get through the game, and Dink moves well using the arrow keys. Timing your attacks and spells can be a bit difficult, but that can be said about a lot of action/RPGs, and it isn’t a crippling flaw.
Gameplay itself is by no means complex. Most of the game involves you roaming the countryside through screen-length map squares, ala The Legend of Zelda, hacking or blasting monsters, finding items for fetch quests, and solving some puzzles. As in most good RPGs, you gain experience in DS by killing monsters. When you reach a new level, you’re given a point to distribute to your attack, defense, or magic powers, and you also get some more HP. It sounds straightforward, but since it can be a long way between levels, you need to employ some strategy in order to meet the challenges ahead.
Defeating some enemies also nets you gold, which you can use to buy weapons, magic, and items (and in certain DMODs, “services”). There aren’t a lot of weapons in the game, but you do get swords, axes, and boomerangs, all of which are better in certain circumstances than others. While we’re on the topic, enemies are dumb. The AI of the baddies is very simple, consisting of them walking around aimlessly until Dink hits them, at which point they muddle their way towards our hero. I’d knock off a few points for this if the enemies weren’t still so dern difficult. If they even touch you, depending on your level, you’re probably going to lose a lot of health, so you only have a few hits before you die.
Interacting with people can be summed up in one word: fun. When you talk to someone, you’ll often have the option of choosing a response from a list, and often it’s fun to pick the “wrong” choice, just to see what happens (save first). As for saving your game, unlike most PC games, you can only save at certain save spots, represented by strange machines (do yourself a favor and hit one). While I usually like being able to save anywhere in a PC game, the aspect of save spots adds a bit of challenge to the game, so I can forgive.
The graphics in the game are quite nice, though a bit simple. For instance, all the characters have the same movement animation, regardless of which way they’re facing, so it looks as if they’re walking to the left when they’re walking up. Not a terrible problem, but kind of odd. All the landscape is stationary, and while trees look semi-real and cliffs look pretty nice, it all being static kind of gives the game a feeling of walking around in a picture, rather than a world. Enemies have good detail, especially the shape change lizard things, but there aren’t a wide variety of them, so you’re really facing the same 4 or 5 enemies throughout the game.
Music in Dink Smallwood is above average. While the music is obviously all MIDI, I really did enjoy it. The action music, though at times it didn’t kick in at the right place, was sufficiently energizing, and the town themes were relaxing and almost somnerific. Of course, they did use the Ave Maria for one of the town themes, but since I love that melody, it only added to my enjoyment of the game.
Sound effects are actually not bad. When you hit something solid, it sounds as if you hit something solid, with a sword. When something goes squish, a bug for instance, it makes a pleasing squish sound. While the sound effects aren’t myriad, the ones that are there are satisfactory.
Now we get to the other hallmark of this rather odd, yet endearing game: diversity. Dink Smallwood comes with the ability to play modules called Dink Modules (DMODs). What these modules are, are whole new adventures beyond the original Dink Smallwood game, created by fans using the DMOD creation kit that comes free with the game. It is an absolute requirement that you download at least a few of these mods after playing the original, just to see how they stack up. Some fall short, but some are just superb, and you can download them all for free. It’s like having scores of fun action/RPGs free. I could do whole reviews for each of the DMODs since each one is so different from the original game.
Dink Smallwood really is a fun and funny action/RPG. I commend the RTSoft team for not only creating this game, but also for putting it up as freeware after selling it in stores. I probably would have bought it in the store if I had gotten the chance to, but since it’s free, there is no excuse for anyone with a computer able to play the game and the time to download it (it’s 24 megs) not to play this game. And the DMODs make it all the more attractive. So go to www.rtsoft.com and download Dink Smallwood. The ducks want you to.