A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Narrative themes include courage and self-sacrifice. Our heroes perpetually put themselves at risk for the greater good. They use violence, but only when necessary, and the fighting is not gratuitous. Emphasis is placed on exploration and solving puzzles.
Positive Role Models
Our young protagonists—a collection of recognizable personalities including a duty-bound girl, and a brash boy, and a mostly mute primary hero—are questing to help a world in turmoil. They fight only when attacked and spend much of their time solving puzzles and aiding those in need. Players can control whether the lead hero responds positively or negatively to certain situations, giving them a modicum of control over his personality.
Ease of Play
Players can choose whether to use the DS’s buttons or its screen to control the action. Both methods work well and are simple to learn thanks to constant onscreen aids. Kids will need to know how to read well in order to understand the story and game instructions.
Violence & Scariness
Player characters wield bows, swords, axes, staffs, and magic while fighting a variety of fantastical foes (giant rats, troll-like apes, etc.). Enemies flash brightly for a split second when hit and disappear when defeated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is a turn-based role-playing game in which players use magic and melee weapons to fight fantastical creatures. The violence is moderate -- kids see only a flash of light when enemies are hit. The game's heroes are a brave and clever bunch, often risking themselves on behalf of others. They are forced to solve a wide variety of environmental puzzles with their magical abilities. Parents should note that this game requires good reading skills; its epic story and all instructions are presented through text.
Is It Any Good?
The third game in this beloved series of handheld role-playing games delivers a conventional -- but refined -- experience. The writing is concise and compelling, turn-based battles are quick yet demand strategy, and the puzzles -- the heart of the game -- are familiar but challenging. What's more, collecting those devilishly hard-to-find djinn -- magical creatures that can be assigned to characters to change their statistics, class, and powers -- is as habit-forming as it was in previous Golden Suns.
But while Dark Dawn may recall earlier games, it's not without innovation. One of its cleverest new features is an encyclopedia that can be accessed by tapping on words in the game's text dialogue, much as one would click a hyperlink on a web page. This action calls up an efficient description of the person, place, or thing referenced, and should prove an invaluable aid for players new to the series. Consequently, it matters not whether you've played previous games in the series; Dark Dawn can be great fun for anyone who enjoys role-playing, puzzles, and the occasional turn-based battle.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.