Developer: Hexage
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.2.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Action RPGs can be hard to get right on a touch screen. Too little control and the game will feel dull, too much and it can become cumbersome and unplayable. Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman manages to hit that fine line of making simple and intuitive controls without over-burdening the player with a clunky interface. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly one of the best iPhone games I have played this year.

photo 3Taking the role of a pale warrior doing quests for strangers just for the (literal) experience and gold, Reaper is divided into short levels on a side-scrolling plane where players fight a single wave of enemies and an overworld with NPC’s to give quests, tell stories, and buy and sell items. Playing a bit more like an old school beat-em-up than what one would expect from an action RPG, levels are quick and all have the simple goal of “kill all enemies. ”

The screen is split into three invisible quadrants: one vertical split in the center and another split on the left hand quarter. The two quarter splits are used to move left and right and the rest of the screen performs actions. A tap will jump, tapping again in air will double jump, double tapping in the air will perform a spin move and sliding up or down will do powerful slashes that consume Rage. Rage is gained by attacking enemies with a surprisingly fluid auto attack system that starts to feel natural fairly quickly.

photo 4As enemies are killed and quests are completed, gold is earned to buy new equipment and experience is earned to level up. With each level up players get the choice of three abilities from static damage, health, or speed upgrades, to knock backs and stuns added to attacks that consume rage. Like with everything else in the game, just enough control is given to have a good sense of player agency but it’s never too overbearing or cumbersome.

The biggest complaints I have about Reaper: Tale of a Pale Swordsman is that it can be a bit of a grind, and quests can start to feel like chores. The combat is great however and the overall feel of the game is fluid and engaging. Some control issues arise with swipes and taps not measuring as well as one would hope but generally these flaws are unnoticeable.

As far as action games go on the iPhone, Reaper may be one of the best.

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