With Diablo III up and (just about) running, what better time to talk about Heroes of Ruin? This is a game that squeezes the essentials of a Diablo-like experience onto Nintendo's 3D handheld: a fantasy-flavoured, class-based, multiplayer dungeon crawler with randomly generated levels. You play as one of a party of up to four adventurers, drawn together by a local or Internet connection and a quest to save the realm's sphinx king, Ataraxis, who has been laid up with a nasty curse.
The four character classes are cast mostly from the archetypal fantasy moulds. There's the spellcasting alchitecht, brawling savage, dual-wielding gunslinger, and the vindicator--a knight-like, swordfighting lion-man.
Early on, your band is despatched from the hub city of Nexus to a network of catacombs in an underground lagoon which, like Heroes of Ruins' other labyrinthine dungeons, is procedurally fashioned to be different in each playthrough.
Here, rays of light leak through the rock overhead, looking natty in 3D, and in general the styling resembles the pleasing fantasy chunkiness of World of Warcraft, between the floating exclamation points over quest givers' heads and the catacombs' froggy murloc enemies.
Bipedal shark monsters and light puzzling also feature down in the catacombs; for the latter, you must arrange the arms of ancient statues to unlock the way to an enemy boss.
The peppy combat is based on a primary attack (a basic sword swipe, as a vindicator) and three of the other manoeuvres you choose to learn as you level, each mapped to a face button. As you might expect of a portable Diablo-alike, there's an emphasis on loot, with a nicely streamlined system that lets you immediately sell goodies you can't use, to save them from cluttering your inventory.
Publisher Square Enix makes some interesting noises about Heroes of Ruins' eventual daily challenges, issued over the Internet and with which players can earn rewards. Though we haven't seen those for ourselves, they could add another layer of longevity to the game, as could the promised in-game shop, in which you can trade rare items with others.
The cooperative play system is easygoing, letting players drop in and out of friends' games regardless of their own progress. Single-player is an option but, much like in Diablo, is missing the point. There's more fun to be had in multiplayer, so here's hoping for efficient matchmaking and a healthy population of potential party members after launch in June.
In the meantime, if you're in London from 25-27 May, you'll be able to play the game for yourself at the MCM Expo, where GameSpot UK is the official gaming partner.