App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Game Stew is a quirky developer that’s released a few notable (and bizarre) games over the past year or so. First there was a slot machine RPG that was much better than it had any right to be. Then there was a post-apocalyptic arcade-style ship combat thing, which was also pretty cool. Now we have a weird adventure that’s been inspired by classic handheld LCD games, which unfortunately just isn’t as much fun.
Gargoyle Ruins tells yet another story involving Game Stew’s bearded hero in red armor. This time a kingdom is being plagued by kidnappings thanks to a nearby castle infested with gargoyles. There are a number of various mini-games to take on but the mode players will be spending the most time with is Princess Rescue. A gate sits on the far side of a bridge and the hero must crank it open with a nearby lever in order to free the princess, escort her back to the entrance, then go back and open the gate a second time to reveal the stairs up to the next level. All while being assaulted from all sides by gargoyles and other hazards. Random quests (i.e. tasks) are also provided at the start of each stage that allow players a way to earn a little extra gold by slaying more monsters or getting kisses, for example.
Despite the notable change in gameplay direction, Gargoyle Ruins will still be familiar to anyone who has messed around with Game Stew’s creations before. It’s mixes simplistic gameplay and animations with more complex progression systems and visuals. It’s designed to improve incrementally through upgrades and other unlockables. It’s also brutally difficult. And yet, as much as I adore the presentation and the concepts behind everything I can’t help but be disappointed with the finished product.
As I’ve said, Game Stew doesn’t really make “easy” games but they’re still fairly accessible. Gargoyle Ruins is neither. With enough diligence it’s possible to make things less grueling and even get better at playing, but everything is structured in such a way that it makes progression a real slog and the controls are a mess. The touch zones don’t’ feel consistent, which leads to a lot of moving when I want to interact and interacting when I want to move. Certain attacks, such as the bow, also lock the hero into his “animation” for too long which can result in unavoidable death. Actually, the main game will often put players into unwinnable situations that trap them between crumbling bridges, bomb blasts, falling blades, and overzealous foot-stabbers. It’s just not fun.
Gargoyle Ruins was legitimately disappointing for me. Doubly so since I’ve enjoyed Game Stew’s other releases so much in the past. It’s still possible to have some fun with it but that requires far more patience than I’m capable of at this point.