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Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers (3DS) Review

by James MitchellJune 18, 2018

Dillon’s Rolling Western is a Nintendo franchise most might not know about. Released for the 3DS In 2012, the game mixed third-person action with good old fashioned tower defence. I never really paid attention to the franchise but I did know another sequel released a few years later that more or less did nothing new. Dead Heat Breakers represents a few changes for the franchise – a physical release everywhere except the United States and Europe for one, but this sense that the series is on a par with Nintendo’s other franchises is unfortunately misplaced. Dead Heat Breakers tries a few new things but is still dull.

Surprisingly, the story doesn’t revolve around Dillon but rather a weird animal hybrid that you create out of your own Mii. In the story, you survive an attack on your town and leave to get help from Dillon, who is a bit of an infamous figure. As you make your way to meet with Dillon himself, you’re attacked by enemies. Thankfully, Dillon and his sidekick Russ are nearby and rush to your defence as you take on the entire team. One thing I noticed with Dead Heat Breakers is that it is a much less colourful world than the previous two game, taking influence from Mad Max and the like. It’s fine, but it’s visually less interesting than its presumably lower budget predecessors.

There are two major phases to how the game plays out. The first phase is where you play as your Mii Animal hybrid and must complete a few different activities to earn money, which can then be used to bolster your defence efforts in the actual battles that take place at night time. Part shoot em up, part light micromanagement scenarios, these moments are too bland to properly break up the pacing of the game. There’s dialogue too, with some jokes, but most of them fall flat and draw out these moments even more. I totally see what these segments are meant to do, break up the game and improve the pacing so it’s not just constant action, but they fall completely flat.

When you’re not doing that, you’ll be defending villages in the games main action sequences. This is where the Tower Defense elements come into play. As Dillon, you’ll patrol around the village and destroy enemies as they slowly move towards it. This is done by contacting the enemy, which then takes you to another screen where you must defeat multiple enemies in a smaller area. Almost like a modern RPG, this approach worked in those games but here is just feels a bit jarring switching between them and kills any sense of urgency I had.

New to Dead Heat Breakers, you can even assign your team of Mii characters to defend the location while Dillon keeps the pressure of them. It’s a cool new idea anything adds another thing to worry about. Dillon must make sure he keeps their weapons charged by rolling through generators throughout the battle too, adding another thing to manage during the heat of the battle.

Despite all of this, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some enjoyable tension when I was playing as Dillon. As an armadillo, his signature move allows him to curl up in a ball and rush his enemies, like Sonic but slightly cooler (kind of). There’s something incredibly satisfying about jumping from group to group and defeating them all in time, but the game relies on one contextual button and the thumbstick, which can feel cramped in longer play sessions. I appreciate the fact the touchscreen isn’t forced on you this time, but I am beginning to think having the option would make the game much more comfortable.

There are quite a few extra pieces of equipment to unlock as you play through the game, which can keep those diehard completionists coming back for more, but the gameplay never really changes itself up enough or feels dynamic enough to hold your interest. This problem is further exacerbated by just how long the game is. My first playthrough took about seventeen or so hours to finish and to put it bluntly there just doesn’t feel like there’s enough game here to spread across such a lengthy playtime. It is good value for money, sure, but it does feel like quantity over quality.

While I mentioned prior that the game does look slightly blander than it’s predecessors, Dead Heat Breakers is still a good looking game for some pretty aging hardware. Even more surprisingly, the game support full 3D visuals which really help to make the characters and the world pop. It’s probably the best-looking game in the series technically, but the distinct lack of colour compared to prior games is felt.


Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers makes the most effort to provide an experience that doesn’t grow old, but the scenarios it puts in place aren’t enough to cover its lengthy playtime and it comes across as feeling rather repetitive. Dillon hasn’t quite got his big break yet, and this definitely steps in the right direction, but he’s not quite at the point where he can mingle with the Inklings and Spring Boy.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Good

+ Fast Paced Battle Sequences
+ Nice Visuals

The Bad

- Repetitive Gameplay Loop
- Overly Simplistic Mechanics
- Less Colourful Art Direction

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About The Author
James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.
  • Silly G
    June 18, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    It still doesn’t look like something that I would enjoy. I am a little surprised that Dillion hasn’t been added to the Smash roster yet though. He’s quite distinguished and I reckon he could have an interesting move set. There are other characters on the roster who have had fewer games than he has.

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