Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4
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Rocketcat Games has launched a game that is quite revolutionary for them: it's not based around swinging on a grappling hook! Instead, their latest, Mage Gauntlet, is an action RPG. Well, it's an action game with RPG elements, anyway. The only real RPG elements are that the main character, Lexi, a graduate of the school of snarky, self-aware heroines, can level up her stats, and items can affect certain attributes. The bulk of the combat is action-based, running around hacking at enemies, and trying to dodge their attacks. The physical combat is based off a rechargeable meter, that when filled can be used to fuel a charge attack that can do more damage to multiple enemies along with stunning them. It can also be used for a dodge move that can avoid enemy attacks and roll through magic attacks. The player lacks any kind of permanent magic, instead getting spells from containers strewn throughout the environment. The items the player equips can affect the drop rates of certain spells, but this is mostly a game about survival.
It works very well as a deconstruction of the action-RPG genre. This is an action game, and while the combat is largely simple, learning how to avoid enemies and to be patient, rather than just rushing through levels from encounter to encounter is the key. The game can be challenging, but it never feels like it's wasting any time at all. There are no fetch quests, or grinding for money or experience (level up bonuses provide minor advantages), and even one level satirizes the whole "kill x number of enemies" and "collect y number of item z" that perpetuates through many of these RPGs. The typical Rocketcat Games elements are here as well. The 16-bit-inspired graphics are great, and the soundtrack is amazing as well. The game isn't afraid to get silly, either; from the aforementioned fetch quest satire to pigs turning into bacon and ham when killed to even just the snarky dialogue from protagonist Lexi, this is a game that thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously. Oh, and there are hats to wear. Lots and lots of hats.
Mage Gauntlet uses a variety of control schemes, including a unique "swipe and hold" movement scheme, but none of them ever feel completely comfortable. While I think I understand why there's not much in the way of random items, it still just feels empty having all these destructible objects and having nothing even trivial to collect with them. The star system feels kind of abstract, as well; it's never really clear why a certain level only merits one star and another merits two or three.
Mage Gauntlet was quite different from what I expected, which was particularly more of an "RPG" experience, but getting past that, what's here is a game that dares to be different from its brethren on iOS. From the difficulty to the combat, to even just the way the game feels like it was yanked straight out of a SNES, there is a lot to love here.