Developer: Lee-Kuo Chen
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

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

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Sucker that I am for retro-inspired visuals, I was immediately interested in A Ride into the Mountains. It’s not just a visual throwback, however. The fluid animations, beautiful backgrounds, haunting melodies, and simple-yet-complex gameplay come together to make something more than just a retro themed time waster. It’s actually pretty special.

rideintomountains02Zu and his family have protected the land from evil forces for generations. One day the sacred relic keeping it all at bay is stolen, so he jumps onto his horse and sets out to get it back. A Ride into the Mountains is centered around one main gameplay mechanic: firing arrows. Players must tap and drag their finger across the screen to draw back Zu’s bow and release to fire, with the time spent drawing determining the shot strength. Little by little more mechanics are introduced – such as tilting the device to move the horse or tapping the screen while drawing back on the bow to focus and slow down time – until eventually it becomes an unexpectedly solid little arcade/action game.

I’ve already mentioned my love of A Ride into the Mountain‘s graphics, but it’s worth mentioning again: I love the graphics. However, the core gameplay is also nice and solid. Time, not drag distance, determines an arrow’s speed and adds significance to every shot. Every enemy type requires a different approach and will force players to think differently about each encounter. This goes double for the bosses. However, while progression can be difficult it’s not impossible. The game auto-saves at the start of every new section so if Zu goes down or if players decide to take a break they can always jump right back in without losing any progress.

rideintomountains09The only thing that bothers me about A Ride into the Mountains is the line that appears when pulling back on the bow. I imagine it’s there in order to give players an idea of what direction they’re aiming in but it’s not relative to Zu’s position on the screen. So if the horse drifts to one side or the other the indicator won’t be accurate. To really help with accuracy it’s better to look at the position of the bow itself. The line for each shot is more of a distraction or hindrance than any sort of help, and I wish like crazy there was a way to turn it off.

Unhelpful screen prompts aside, A Ride into the Mountains is a very impressive action game. The mechanics expand steadily without becoming overwhelming, the enemies require constant changes in tactics, and simply playing through an encounter or two for a few minutes can be a pleasure. That, and there’s a subdued beauty to its visuals, music, and overall presentation that I wish was more common in iOS games.

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