Over the course of the last couple weeks, I’ve played through the iOS port of the third episode of the Penny Arcade game- officially named “Penny Arcade Adventures: ON the Rain-Slick Precipice OF Darkness 3“, and hereafter referred to as “Rainslick 3″ because holy crap that’s a mouthful. It was decent, but unfortunately I’m not nearly as impressed by it as I hoped to be.
The game, mechanically, is fairly solid. It’ s got an oldscool feel and visual flair that works in its’ favor, while the underpinning ‘systems’ borrow from some of the 16-bit era’s better ideas. Combat mixes the oldschool Final Fantasy turn-based system with a visible ‘initative’ bar and the ability to delay enemy turns or create ‘periodic’ effects, which works fairly well; they’ve put a few interesting twists on a solid foundation. Characters are developed with a class-based system, similar to the Job systems seen in some of the old Final Fantasy games- each of your four main characters has a default ‘class, which grants stat bonuses and abilities, and you’ll eventually gain the ability to equip up to two additional ones. It works pretty well, although I found that once I had a setup down, there was very little reason to ever change it up. I thought the challenge level was decent- I wiped several times through the game, but the penalty for doing so is light, so it didn’t feel terribly onerous to change up my strategy and try again. The other side of that coin, however, is that each area contains a certain set of predefined combats which don’t appear again- although there is one area where respawning enemies appear, on the most part, you don’t have the option of grding levels as a recouse if you get stuck. This didn’t bother me personally, but may be a sticking point for other players.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of smaller issues with the game that bugged me. While the plot is fine for what it is, the writing is florid in a way whch just makes my eyes slide right over it sometimes. The writers- I’m not sure if it’s wrtten by the PA folks themselves or someone from Zeboyd- frequently seem more interested in showing off their vocabulary than actually telling a story in an interesting way. There’s quite a bit of reuse of old PA gags; nearly every one-panel gag character they’ve come up with appears at least briefly, whether as a full character or a random enemy. Rex Ready? Dr. Jacob Crunchner? The Broodax? Karapyss the Crabomancer, and his companion Professor Necro-Dead? You’ll bump into all of them as you go through the game. While there are worse things than having shout-outs to the old strips (and I admit that I was glad to see the criminally-underused Dr. Raven Darktalon Blood), I can’t help but feel that relying so heavily on callouts to Penny Arcade the comic prevents Penny Arcade the game from forming its’ own mythology. I also suspect that non-readers will be a little put off by the onslaught of old injokes and callbacks, but at this point the PA folks may have given up on attracting them to the game in any real numbers. The fact that there are neither repeatable nor random combats gives me the same on-rails feeling that many modern games to; playing Rainslick 3 definitely feels more like a scripted series of minibosses than exploring an open world.
There’s no nice way to say this: the game did not run well on my iPhone 3GS. The graphics are unevenly-scaled in a way which makes the faux-16-bit style that they’re rendered in look tremendously ugly, I had numberous issues with the game crashing, and the interface is incredibly clumsy on an iPhone screen. Maybe it’s better on later-generation phones (or iPads), but if you’re interested at all, I’d strongly recommend the PC/Mac version. I don’t know if it’s better, but frankly I’m not sure it could be worse without being borderline-unplayable.
I don’t mean to be too down on the game. The mechanics are solid, like I said, and none of the issues I’ve mentioned above prevented me from finishing or enjoying the game. That being said, I’m not sure how strongly I’d recommend the game to anyone who wasn’t a fan of the comic. You could certainly do worse if you’re looking for an oldschool-style mobile RPG- but you could probably do better, too.
It seems that the iDevices don’t see much ‘full-size’ development; even well-established companies seem to tend toward bite-size offshoots of their popular series. This is part of the reason I was happy to see Final Fantasy Dimensions pop up, even if the combined price and mediocrity of the game has kept me away from it. That being said, there are some full-size games hiding out there.
A friend- whose indie tabletop RPGs you should totally check out- pointed me at Silversword a few weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying it tremendously ever since. An original game based heavily on the 1980s-era Bard’s Tale series, Silversword has you controlling a party of adventurers in one of the last settlements on an island colony beseiged by evil forces; as you can imagine, this involves a lot of delving into monster-infested caverns and abandoned crypts filled with the restless dead.
Silversword’s look and feel cleaves very close to its’ oldschool roots; although you’re exploring a polygonal world in a new story, everything about the game strongly resembles the games it’s based on. The class selection, the spell lists, and even the screen and menu layots resemble the games that it’s based on (perhaps a little too much in the latter case, as inventory management can be a bit of a pain on a tiny iPhone screen). That being said, it offers a more modern difficulty level- there are certainly areas where you’ll need to grind a bit or where not paying enough attention will kill you, but it doesn’t quite reach the “one wrong step means death, even right out of the gate!” level of many of the games it’s based on.
It’s a nice, solid ‘full-size’ RPG, and while the price is high for an iPhone game, you’re getting a lot of content for that. If you’re looking for a real RPG on the iDevices, I’m ready to call Silversword a must-buy. Check it out at the App Store here.
Infinite Space was originally released around 2010 without, as far as I know, a whole lot of fanfare. Although it’s a frustratingly uneven game at times, it also has a whole lot of very interesting ideas in it and deserves way more attention than it got; unfortunately, like so many cult games, getting to the creamy middle requires biting through about 5 hours of uninspired plot points and a very spotty tutorial.
At it’s core, Infinite Space is a JRPG, with many of the things that entails- a fairly linear storyline, an explicit separation between battles and ‘overworld’ scenes, and a teenager on a quest to solve the mysteries of the universe. Infitite Space’s big innovations are a heavy focus on customization and a storyline that’s smarter than your typical anime gibberish and- in a way- seems to be attempting to introduce a few of Bioware’s concepts.
Infinite Space follows the adventures of Yuri, a teenger from a backwater planet who was given a mysterious treasure called an Epitaph by his father. Since it wouldn’t be much of a game otherwise, he decides to leave his home to see the universe, bringing his sister and hiring a ‘launcher’ to be his mentor along the way. After some time battling pirates, he becomes involved in organizing his galaxy and its’ neighbor to defend themselves against a pending invasion by the massive Lugovalian Empire as he attemps to unravel the mystery of the Epitaphs and his purpose in the universe. It’s a pretty straightforward setup, but it’s decently well-told and populated by a large cast of relatively unique characters.
The unfortunate first issue with the game is that the first act of the storyline- where Yuri more-or-less aimlessly fights pirates for 5 or 6 hours of game time- is probably the weakest. It’s lengthy, and it doesn’t really highlight any of the game’s strengths- it may be intended as a ‘tutorial’ period, but I can’t help but think cutting some segments out of it would help. It also often feels as if the game is simply working through plot points as quickly as possible early on- some of the more egregious examples are retroactively explained later in the game, but it’s still a big chunk of time that feels like pushing through dead wood to make it to the good bits.
The second portion of the game- organizing resistance against the Lugovalian threat- is by for the longest and best, where the game really shines. This portion of the game introduces a lot of political figures in a lot of warring nations that Yuri and his crew need to sort out. The writing here really captures the difficulty of doing so, to a much greater degree than similar sequences in a great many RPGs have- your enemies in these struggles act because they are concerned about the fate of their nations, or are self-interested, or more often are simply carrer soldiers who happen to be on the other side of the battle, not supervillians acting out of the simple cruelty or transparent evil that infects most giant universe-conquering empires from the top down. Likewise, there are benefits to living under Lugovalian rule, and when one character who appears early on in the game resurfaces later as a Lugovalian officer, it’s possible to understand why.
After the first act of the game, there are only a tiny handful of antagonists who are villians because they are transparently evil and for no other reason- something that I appreciate and that very few RPGs can claim.
Throughout the game, there are a number of ‘split paths’ in the storyline, or minor choices you make which may have consequences much later in the game. It’s a nice touch, and I see it as a move to be closer to the Bioware model- unfortunately, these choices aren’t terribly common, and some are clearly designed to have a ‘right’ answer which provides some sort of bonus. It’d say it’s a step in the right direction; while the game’s still mostly on rails, at least they try to change it up and obscurethat fact a bit.
Things go downhill, however, in the third act, when the game focuses again on the “high-level sci-fi” storyline. Very few of the game’s “big questions” have satisfying answers, and unfortunately the whole thing boils down to a ham-fistedly ambiguous Gainax ending. I was pretty disappointed with this, but the rest of the game was solid enough that I’m willing to forgive it.
The game’s systems are interesting- they’ve got some holes in them, and there are some things that aren’t really covered in the tutorial, but all-in-all it’s pretty enjoyable. For most of the game, you’ll be tooling around the galaxy with a fleet of up to five ships built from plans you’ve collected. Each ship can be further customized with various ‘modules’, placed like Tetris pieces on a grid- a grid whose exact size and shape is dependent on the ship. It’s a good system, and allows ships of the same model to be significantly different while also providing a way to differentiate between the many available ship designs that’s less trivial than simple stat adjustments that can be directly compared. As mentioned above, there’s a large cast of characters who’ll be joining your crew; each of these crew members can be assigned to a job on your fleet to provide stat bonuses as well. There are a limited number of jobs, and you’ll fill them all well before the end of the game, but it’s a good way to remind you that you’re on a ship with a huge crew, not just the handful of characters who regularly appear in cutscenes.
While this system works, on the most part, there are also a number of annoying oddities that mar the experience quite a bit. There are a number of seemingly-obvious missing pieces to the ship-buying interface. While you can look at the stats of any ship you have plans for and sort on a specific one, there’s no way to compare a ship you’re looking at to one you already have or to each other directly; you’ll have to flip back and forth between the two ships you’re interested in on the ‘buy’ list or, worse yet, the “Customize fleet” and “buy ship” screen, two menus apart. Likewise, you can’t see the module grid for a ship until after you’ve bought it- although there are only a few ships with truly awful layouts, it still seems an obvious omission. There’s a “database” available from the title screen which includes brief blurbs about each ship you’ve seen ingame, but these texts are not visible from anywhere else in the game… Once you’ve built up a decent stock of plans, most of the game’s ships start to blur together; maybe it’s a minor thing, but I can’t help but think that a button to bring up the flavor text for a given ship on the purchase and customize interfaces would have gone a long way to give ships more personality.
Combat is an action-RPG-ish system; it’s a bit limited, but serves its purpose. Essentially, your fleet and the enemy’s are placed at either end of a single linear path; you can both move back and forth to close with the enemy or retreat from them- important, since all your weapons come with minimum and maximum ranges. Taking action consumes portions of a ‘command guage’ that fills during battle; how fast this fills depends on the skill of your command crew and the modules of your ships. You start with a couple different actions- a normal attack fires all of your guns, a barrage fires all your guns a couple times, and dodging gives you a big bonus to evading barrages until you take another action. Eventually, the game also introduces the ability to launch fighters which do gradual damage to enemy ships and prevent them from retreating, an anti-air option to counter fighters, and the ability to board enemy ships. The latter seems like a missed opportunity- in theory, it seems an equalizer against higher-preformance ships, but in practice it’s often arbitrarially disabled in battle, consumes a lot of command guage, and is difficult enough to win reliably that it doesn’t seem worth it. The enemy fleet is also working with the same commands off of its’ own command guage, which is visible to you- watching the enemy fleet carefully can tell you when they’re dodging and when they’re about to attack.
Combat is quite difficult early on- something that’s exacerbated by a poor tutorial and a number of fairly steep jumps in difficulty in the game’s early areas. (Protip: if you look at the ‘enemy ship’ indicators in battle, you can see where they are in the enemy’s formation. You have a massive penalty when attacking ships that aren’t in the front lines, and the target selected at the beginning of the battle is typically a flagship in the rear of the formation. This took an embarrasingly long time to click for me.) Not paying enough attention can be quite lethal early on, even in random encounters. That being said, once you’ve got the hang of things and built up a fleet for one strategy or another, you probably won’t need to switch it up for the rest of the game; I took a battleship-centric ‘big-gun’ approach and relied on Barrages, but I know there are other players who swear by Fighter-based approaches as well. Attack animations could be a little better-managed; they’re skippable but long, and skipping them hides how much damage you’ve done and which of your attacks has hit or missed.
Infinite Space brings a lot of new ideas to the table- the level of customization available will appeal to Armored Core fans, and I certainly hope that more Japanese companies begin incorporating Infinite Space’s split-path-heavy model. While there are times when the game falters- and there is a certain amount of gritting your teeth required in the opening chapters- it’s an interseting, solid game overall, and I’m glad I hunted it down.
I gave into temptation and my own fanboyish impulses a few days ago and tried Final Fantasy Dimensions on iOS. I really wanted to like this one- a new FF in the style of the SNES ones! What’s not to like?- but I find myself overall pretty unimpressed. While they definitely have the look of the old games down, their soul has been barely captured, if at all- the writing isn’t particularly good, and the great many subtle visual callbacks to older games in the series feel like pandering rather than homage. Remember the weird octagon-shaped roofs on towers in FF5? The rounded cave floors in FF4? Everything about Mount Ordeals? They’re all back!
The game’s plot and systems crib very heavily from Final Fantasy 5; within the first chapter, you’ve got jobs obtained by collecting crystal chips, the world splitting in two, and cities being sucked into the void. The game’s job system itself is basically similar to FF5’s with a few tweaks, but these changes feel like they don’t add much save cruft to FF5’s elegant system.
The game is purchased chapter-by-chapter; the free prologue is about two hours long and doesn’t even introduce the job system by the time it’s complete. That only the prologue is free is part of the game’s issue- most of the game’s interesting ideas don’t come into play until the first ‘real’ chapter. The first chapter is $3; the latter three are $10 each. The whole package is very pricey for an iPhone game- part of me applauds the effort to pull iOS prices up to a point where ‘full-size’ development is viable, but there’s another part of me that thinks maybe I should just buy Silversword five times instead.
I’m left a bit torn by the game. Although I’m awfully down on it above, it is still mechanically fun and there’s a part of me that really wants to like it. On the other hand, though, I just can’t justify recommending it given that steep price, particularly above the older, better games that it’s quite clearly aping. If you’re looking for a ‘full-size’ iOS RPG that doesn’t depend on using the pay-to-win, I’d recommend Silversword (linked above) over this in a heartbeat; if you’re looking for a Final Fantasy-like game that you haven’t played before, there are four or five games I’d recommend above this one.
ZOMG! USE MY REFERRAL CODE TO GET 10,000 MONEYS AND A RARE CARD! [dzr67332]!!!
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Rage of Bahamut. Rage of Bahamut has been getting a lot of attention lately because it’s currently the top grossing app on both iOS and Android, but in all the excitement nobody’s actually talking about how it plays. So here’s the rundown.
Initially, the game’s a little confusing, because it’s essentially a browser game of the old “click a link and wait for the page to refresh” variety; you scroll up and down a series of (extremely cluttered) webpages, clicking on hyperlinks. Also, there is no audio anywhere in the game. No music, no sound effects, not even a “click” sound effect for clicking on the hyperlinks.
The first layer of the game is “Quest Mode”, which looks superficially like the first-person battle interface from Dragon Quest or any other 80s-era console RPG. Except there’s only one button. And your only stats are “Stamina” (energy mechanic), “XP”, and “Progress”. Each “battle” in quest mode presents you with a grainy flash clip of a random static enemy sprite and an “ENTER” button. You click the “ENTER” button and the enemy dies, and you get some money, XP, and Progress, and lose some stamina. The enemies don’t have stats; they don’t need them. Whatever the enemy sprite is — werewolf, slime, praying mantis, succubus — it dies when you click the “ENTER” button. You can change your “leader” for questing, but all this does is change the 4-frame attack animation to something thematically appropriate to the leader; the enemies still die when the click “ENTER” regardless of whether your leader is a mighty dragon or a lowly goblin.
Every three enemies you get a random reward, which is either money, a card, or a treasure. Treasures are only useful for completing sets, and each completed set gets you another card. Cards can be “evolved” by consuming other cards with the same name; add two Goblins together to get a Goblin+, add another Goblin to get a Goblin++, and add a final Goblin to get an “[Imp] Goblin+++” (which can’t be evolved any further). This is the one mechanic here that I think has promise and could have interesting applications in something else that’s actually a game; as cards evolve, their artwork changes slightly — male characters get progressively cooler-looking armor, and female characters get progressively less clothing (which is actually kind of icky since most of the female characters in this game look like 8-year-olds) — and it’s intriguing to evolve cards just to see what minor adjustments will be made to the next level of artwork. You can also “enhance” cards by consuming other cards in exchange for a slight stat boost, but this doesn’t change the artwork.
The final layer of the game is “Battle”, where you make a set of up to five attack cards, and match their combined attack values against the combined defense values of another player’s set. If your set’s attack is higher, you win, and see a grainy flash animation of the words “YOU WON!” and get some money. Otherwise you lose, and see an almost identical flash animation of the words “YOU LOST”. And that’s pretty much it.
The CEO of ngmoco, the game’s US publisher, calls Rage of Bahamut “like getting secret knowledge from the future“, because it comes from Japan where they had cellphone games for roughly 4 years before the US had cellphone games, and from that fact he concludes that they’re still 4 years ahead of us on cellphone games. If this is a vision of the future, it’s a pretty bleak one, but there’s no denying the game’s success. Studying its minimalism, and what I perceive as a lack of depth, I’ve come to the conclusion that Rage of Bahamut is only as much of a game as it needs to be, which it turns out really isn’t very much at all (a point which Ian Bogost inadvertently made with Cow Clicker). Players don’t need anything approaching an actual RPG experience to continue playing the Quest Mode, they don’t need the tactical depth of Magic: The Gathering to enjoy the Battle Mode, and they don’t need anything more than a messy webpage tying it all together. And even those elements are superfluous; Dark Summoner, a very similar game that’s also storming the “top grossing” charts, skips the whole fake-RPG-battle and just tells you what reward you’ve found at each step of Quest Mode, and provides a handy button to just skip straight to the results of PVP battles without having to sit through the half-second-long battle animation.
As a game designer, particularly one who’s in love with developing innovative game mechanics, it’s depressing to see something that can barely be called a game at all enjoy so much success. But on the other hand, it’s kind of morbidly fascinating and extremely educational to see a game not only survive but thrive with virtually every aspect of “game-ness” stripped away. Ideally, this is a “secret message from the future” only as far as it provides precise, clinical insight into how minimal you can go with gameplay and still compel people to play, which could force designers to reconsider their sacred cows, and build even better games from a foundation that’s even more rudimentary than they’d previously considered.
I was going to mention somewhere in here how Rage of Bahamut‘s “faux-RPG” Quest Mode is very evocative of the “faux-gameplay” of pachi-slot machines, and then ruminate on the implications of that, but I couldn’t find a good place to shoehorn it in, so I’m just slapping it on here at the end. But without the rumination. Because it’s time for bed. Insert your own rumination in the comments!
So basically every gaming blog in the universe has mentioned the iOS match-3/RPG hybrid 10000000 already, but I thought I’d mention it, too. It’s a pretty cool little game in the general vein of Puzzle Quest or Dungeon Raid.
You’re some dude trapped in a castle; your goal is to earn ten million points and escape. To do this, you’ve got to delve into a dungeon, which takes the form of a series of obstacles- match keys to open chests and drawers; match swords or staves to attack monsters. You’re on a time limit, but as you go you’ll earn gold, experience, wood, and stone which you can use to upgrade your castle and statistics. Meeting specific goals- using a certain number of items or getting a certain number of 5-tile matches, for example- eventually unlocks higher difficulty levels, which have a larger multiplier that’s applied to your score.
It’s a fun little game; better than the sluggish iPhone implementation of Puzzle Quest 2, and definitely a good way to spend my morning commute. It runs $2, and reaching the 10000000-point goal took me just about 5 hours of playtime total.
So, time for a long-overdue post about Crow on the iDevices.
I’ve long been a fan of the Starfox-style rail shooters- it’s sad that there aren’t more of them out there. I picked up Crow on the iPhone after seeing a series of good reviews- it’s not as long or polished as a full-size effort, but it’s a solid little game.
The game’s somewhat gothy setting puts you in control of a Crow, an emissary from the spirit world in this setting. An unseen spirit gives you orders to curse various foes, while a second voice implores you to spare them instead. Whose orders will you take? Realistically, it’s all pretty predictable, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of overall change in the plot in response to your choices (save perhaps the final enemy), but the plot isn’t the real attraction to the game to begin with.
The rail-shooter sections are smooth and pretty, and work very well. You control the crow using the touch-screen as a mouse, much like in any number of iOS shooters; it’s responsive and smooth. Your offensive and defensive spells are triggered using gestures- a diagonal swipe on an enemy attacks it and a circle drawn on the screen creates a defensive shield. The levels start to feel a bit repetitive after a while, but the game is short enough that it didn’t realy botter me.
The only thing about the game that I wasn’t quite so fond of was the “hunt-for-hidden-items” sections that bookend the action levels. These allow you to earn more ‘trinkets’ by flying around, and they do show off the area you’re in, but they feel like an unneccecary break in the action and finding trinkets can be a bit irritating. While they can be skipped and the game would probably seem a bit sparse without them, I would have preferred some other sort of minigame- or at least some more rail-shooter levels!
Crow is good, solid, pretty fun- I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I’d say it’s worth the $3.
Some games I’ve played recently, none of which are quite notable enough to write up a full article about:
Astronot (iOS): An unapologitically low-res IOs metroidvania somewhere between Metroid 2 and Redder in terms of complexity (one ‘scrambled’ screen I ran into hints at a reference to the second, but it may also have been an honest bug). There are only a handful of powerups to collect and enemies to defeat, and a lot of space to explore. I eventually gave up on it due to the lack of an automap and a a few poor presentation decisions- mostly centering around insufficient differentiation between foreground and background tiles. Others may enjoy it more than I, and it’s lightweight if you’re itching for some exploration-on-the-go. There’s both a full and demo version available.
Platformines beta (PC): Perhaps best described as Borderlands by way of Metal Slug, this platformer/Roguelike is about exploring a randomly-generated cave in seach of a set of key items. Along the way, you’ll be looting treasure and stockpiling a set of also-randolmly-generated guns. It was a lot of fun for the two hours or so I played the beta for; while I’m not entirely sure that there’s enough meat to the game to keep it interesting for the advertised 5-10-hour playtime, it’s worth keeping an eye on. The beta can be downloaded here, and there’s a trailer available here.
Blind Man’s Dungeon (iOS): Japanese developer Skipmore has produced a number of small, free games for iOS, including Rotten Tangerines, my second-favorite tangerine-themed video game. Blind Man’s Dungeon is their latest, following a hero who’s decided to blindly charge into his local dungeon, with the plan of left-hand-ruling his way to treasure and glory.
Note to aspiring adventurers: This is not a good plan. Do not do this.
You control a fairy with the power to create temporary walls; your goal is to use this power to guide the hero, who will turn left whenever he bumps into a solid object, toward treasure to collect and monsters to slay, while avoiding hazards along the way. Collecting treasure creates traps which will damage the hero if he crosses them; while the hero is capable of destroying most monsters, there are also some that will damage him as well. I’m not sure how long the concept will stay fresh, but it’s been pretty decent so far. It’s also ad-supported and downloadable for free here.
Oniken (PC): This one has been making the rounds on a number of news sites, so you’ve probably seen it before. The upshot: It’s a NES-style platformer recently released, starring a sword-wielding Kenshiro lookalike on his quest to defeat the robotic Oniken. It has the difficulty level you’d expect from an NES game- it certainly doesn’t pull its punches- but it has the smoother controls of a modern platformer. It feels a bit like Shatterhand, or one of the NES-era Ninja Gaiden games; it’s solid, although it admittedly didn’t do a whole lot for me. The full game costs $5; I’ve only played the demo, available on their website.
A quick one for today- better than continued radio silence, though, I guess.
Ether Vapor has long been one of my favorite doujin games; it’s a very polished sci-fi-themed shooter. I wrote up an article about it over at Hardcore Gaming 101 when it came out about five years ago.
Somewhat out of the blue, I found out today that the developers are releasing an updated English version later this month by digital download- it’s got a pretty serious visual overhaul, although what I haven’t seen any other changes.
It’s a polished effort by a skilled team, and it’s a lot of fun- I’m pretty psyched for the release. Ether Vapor Remaster goes for sale on their website June 29th for $8; they claim that a Steam release will be out soon after.
I picked up Iridium Games’ Sequence a few weeks ago during a Steam sale- It’s kind of an interesting game, so I thought I’d put a blurb about it here. To summarize in as few word as possible: Sequence : Dance Dance Revolution :: Puzzle Quest : Bejeweled.
Sequence follows the tale of an obnoxious, sarcastic hipster who’s awoken at the bottom of a tower and needs to fight his way to the top, guided by an equally obnoxious, equally sarcastic hipster speaking to him over a loudspeaker. The game’s website and promotional blurbs make a big deal of the game’s voice acting, although I’m not entirely sure why- it’s not particularly good, and I would have very gladly given it up for a smaller download.
Most of the game really just amounts to a framework to propel you through a series of combats- you’re required to grind for items on each floor to make a key to reach the next, in addition to any equipment or spells you want to create. Combat itself is played on three fields of falling arrows, similar to Dance Dance Revolution’s playfield- tapping a corresponding key as arrows hit the bottom of the field ‘collects’ it. You can can switch between the three fields- ‘attack’, ‘defense’, and ‘mana’- at will. The mana field has a series of arrows falling constantly- collecting these allows you to regenerate mana. Casting any of your available spells to attack costs mana and creates a series of arrows on the ‘attack’ field; all of these need to be collected for the spell to take effect. Finally, monsters attack by creating arrows on your ‘defense’ field; these cause damage if they reach the bottom of the field, but you can collect them to prevent that.
It’s pretty intuitive in practice, and I enjoyed the two hours or so that I played even as someone who’s not a big rhythm-game fan. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of different songs (Offhand, I think I only saw four), and I fear that the game may get repetitive at the higher floors, but I think it was still worth buying. The sale I picked it up from is over, but it’s full price is still only $5- if you’re into rhythm games or RPG hybrids, it’s definitely worth a try. It’s available on both both Steam and XBLA.