Mage Gauntlet ($2.99) is yet another brilliant game from Rocketcat. Although the action-RPG is a completely different genre to their previous hook-slinging titles, it shares those games’ brilliant pixellated graphics, high quality sound effects and simplicity.
I’ve never really enjoyed action-RPGs before. The app’s description states that it’s inspired by classic Super Nintendo games like Legend of Zelda: LTTP – games that I never purposely chose to play. Yet Mage Gauntlet hooked me, making me much more able to understand the pleasure of the genre. The app has charming humour, an accessible combat system, a wide range of environments and a wealth of gameplay. Its story is fairly engaging and sets up the gameplay well. I won’t go into detail here, but it involves magic, wizards, crystals and lots of different monsters.
You venture through different environments via easy-to-use controls. Moving your finger around on the bottom left of the screen moves your character, whilst a button on the lower right can be pressed to swipe your sword. It’s also possible to attack using magic; spells are selectable from a menu accessed from the top right of the screen. That’s as far as the combat system goes – swords and spells. Enemies tend to flash just before attacking you, giving you time to move from their path of attack and the opportunity to counter-attack. It can be tricky evading enemy attacks, but if you lose all of your life you get three chances to continue a level from where you left off (after this, you’ll begin the level again at the start), meaning that it never feels impossible to pass difficult enemies.
As you progress through the game, you’ll level up, and can choose to increase your magical abilities, your vigor or your luck by allocating points to them. Equipping found items will also give a boost to your abilities. Often, these items will be tucked away in jars or hidden paths, encouraging you to smash up, and explore, your environment. It might seem daunting trying to navigate the occasionally labyrinthine environments, but if you do get lost, there’s always a map on hand to steer you back onto the right path.
To spice up the gameplay, there are achievements, tons of hidden paths (and items) and boss battles. Although the achievements and secret areas are good at keeping the game interesting, encouraging exploration of levels, boss battles are a little weak. They seem to largely just be extended periods of combat, with very little different from other sections of combat within the game. Bosses feel like the same enemies, but more threatening looking and with a much larger hit count.
Despite there being so much to spice up the gameplay, I can see that it might get a little repetitive over a long period. That said, I’m only around a third of the way into the game after a few hours of playing it, so Mage Gauntlet will easily match the amount of gameplay provided by other low-priced apps before it gets boring.
Overall, it’s difficult to avoid falling in love with Mage Gauntlet. Its simple controls, engaging gameplay, entertaining character and undeniable longevity make it easily worth its incredibly low price tag. If you haven’t already, you should definitely buy this game.