Developer: NimbleBit
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Playtime: Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Nimble Quest, the latest from NimbleBit, starts off with an immediate nod to its direct influence, Snake. Before mobile games exploded, everyone enjoyed Snake on a Nokia mobile phone, because what else was there to do besides play Snake? So, immediately, it seems like there may not be much to this at all.

Nope. Nimble Quest takes that simple concept and makes it deeper and more fun than it has any right to be.

It starts by adding a bit of strategy to the standard Snake gameplay of turning left and right, avoiding walls and enemies. See, players control a character that has a special attack ability that triggers when near enemies, and they use that to take out enemies. Other heroes can be collected as drops from enemies that form parts of the snake, and can use their own individual attacks. Now, enemies can attack as well, so it becomes about staying out of danger, as the heroes have health bars that will quickly diminish, and if the lead hero dies, it’s game over. So, there’s a strategy to approaching the enemies, one that is about taking as little damage as possible.

Now, this is where the free-to-play elements start to be exposed in the design, but in the traditional non-intrusive NimbleBit way. See, the maximum number of heroes that can be used in a chain is equal to the number of heroes that are unlocked. Naturally, it gets easier to progress further as more heroes are available. The characters can be unlocked by reaching certain level milestones in the game, or by buying them via IAP. Boosts can be bought by spending tokens, earned through random drops, or by spending 1,000 gems, the common currency. Both can be bought via IAP as well. Gems are used for powerup upgrades along with character upgrades.

All this talk about the IAP obfuscates the fact that it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the game at its core. It’s simple to pick up, and can be enjoyed with one hand, and in any orientation desired. While there is a definite sense of progression, of getting better, that can be accelerated by spending money, it’s still possible to play the game without spending money. NimbleBit tests without having IAP enabled, and it shows – this is a game that is free to have fun with, though there’s plenty of reward for spending. It’s a great balance that works in the way that free-to-play absolutely should be. Unlocking everything will take a while, along with just trying to get high scores for each character, but there’s also a guild mode where players compete for their team to raise their total score. Join guild #148Apps and let’s take on the world!

Nimble Quest is another winner from NimbleBit. In a world where free-to-play can be annoying and exploitative of players, they’re showing that it’s possible to do it right.

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