Developer: Last Life Games LLC
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0.4
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

It is hard to deny the indelible impression that the original Zelda left on an entire generation of gamers. Never before had a game so perfectly captured the essence of being on an open quest, while still mixing in action and puzzle solving so effectively. Last Life Games are ambitiously following in that extremely influential title’s footsteps with their recently released retro-inspired adventure, Kingdoms Fall. Can it manage to live up to its inspiration, or are we looking at a nostalgic nightmare?

IMG_0613People who reflect back on adventure games of the NES era tend to forget one critical detail: these titles were harder than trying to direct a herd of feral cats. The rose-colored glasses don’t do Kingdoms Fall any favors when it throws the same level of difficulty at the player right out of the chute. It looks like retro, controls like retro, and slowly diminishes the will to survive like retro. For that reason the title certainly has its niche, but it also isn’t doing itself any favors by going so hardcore so quickly.

For those that survive the early gauntlet what remains is an amusing jaunt down quazi-memory lane, featuring gameplay that harkens back to days long since retired. Instead of chronicling the rise of random “Citizen X,” the king’s son is guided through missions to deliver the kingdom from countless different forces of evil. These insurmountable creatures can only be dispatched using special items acquired by conquering sprawling dungeons, littered with countless smaller adversaries. Sound familiar?

IMG_0633Aside from Kingdoms Fall being hard as nails, it also has some difficulties in the control department. Though updates to increase player movement speed have helped curb some of the traversal issues, there are still significant problems with trying to line up attacks. It is hard to sometimes determine what the attack radius will be, relative to the enemy and player sprite’s positioning. Some of this resolves with familiarity and repetition, but the dread of a potentially misaligned strike never completely subsides.

The biggest takeaway from a game like Kingdoms Fall is that while the overall experience is fun, it reminds everyone how much games have toned down challenge in the last couple of decades. Additional benefits like a great, though repetitive, soundtrack are immersive but hindered by the inconsistent controls. Retro veterans are more than welcome to tread lightly, but most others need not apply.


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