App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Giant fire-breathing rodents, spiders made of lightning, loads of sarcasm and, of course, buxom wenches. And that's just within the first hour. There's a lot to love about The Bard's Tale, assuming one has the capacity to enjoy lots of tongue-in-cheek and borderline tasteless humor wrapped up in an action RPG.
The Bard's Tale is no made-for-iOS spin-off; it's every bit the 2004 original. The Bard is just as irreverent as ever, and still voiced by Cary Elwes. The goofy jabs at cliched "Chosen One" story lines remain. The only changes real made in the move involve the controls and the visuals. The former is what we should all have expected, with virtual buttons and sticks being used in place of a physical controller. The latter actually seems to have been improved, both because it's being viewed on a smaller screen and because the iPhone and iPad can generally squeeze out a bit more juice than a PlayStation 2 or Xbox.
As I've already said, there's a lot to love here. The top-down gameplay feels right at home on iOS, while the game's PC and console roots make it feel more involving than a typical iPhone RPG. The kooky plot and characters as well as the liberal doses of the Ha-Ha are what really steal the show. It's hard not to get drawn in and want to know what happens next when what happens next will most likely be completely ludicrous.
A few leftovers from the original release that have also been faithfully represented probably should've been cut, however. Saves are few and far between, there are no checkpoints and the game can get brutally difficult at times (I hated that stupid "bugbear"). It seems rather archaic when compared to the more forgiving systems we've all become used to thanks to the pick-up-and-play nature of most other games made for iOS. The Bard's responses ("nice" or "rude") are also generally unclear until they're selected. More than once I've tried to say something nice that ends up sounding downright mean, while the rude option would result in more pleasant dialog. Then there's the way I constantly end up tapping the weapon inventory button accidentally thanks to its sensitivity and proximity to the movement stick, but doing so pauses the action so it's really more of a disruption than anything significant. It just gets annoying when it happens all the time.
Really though, aside from the Old School implementation of game saves, The Bard's Tale is a great trip down memory lane that actually feels more suited to iOS. Being able to play it whenever and wherever is certain to make fans happy, while newcomers can enjoy a humor-laden story that's just as funny as it was seven years ago. Just be aware that the in-app purchases are completely unnecessary and each item can be earned normally through regular play.