Editor’s Note: I don’t normally play mobile games, that’s why you see so few (zero) reviews for them on Frags and Beer. But, after criticizing someone’s idea that the pixelated Jar Jar Binks to the left was representative of a strong female character I was confronted by an obvious fan of the game who basically said ‘don’t knock it until you try it’. Now, I’ve used that phrase myself more than once, and while I wasn’t being critical of the game, I decided to pick up the challenge and try it before knocking it. That’s why you are now seeing a review for a mobile game. I did a ‘first thoughts’ review as a TwitLonger, you’ll see some of that in the following piece. Also note, I did not finish this game, you’ll see why. I will not review the end of the game due to this.
If you get nothing out of this review I want you to get this. I had no fun playing this game. That said, I never did like repetitive button mashing games where fights are essentially the timing of events over and over, whether it’s attack, block attack, attack dodge, or what have you. If that’s the sort of game you like, you may like the mechanics of this game.
Gameplay is much like any other mobile game I’ve played, utilizing the touch screen. It’s not intuitive for me, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I imagine other people who play mobile games a lot may find it quite easy to figure out, I needed the prompts. I also found the responsiveness of the controls to be very sketchy. I played this on my Samsung S6, and there were times the move press control, or ‘tip tap’ simply did not work. It’s impossible to know if it was the device, or the game, but it was a huge frustration at times. Pattern memorization and timing is definitely key, and that’s difficult when the controls are finicky.
The combat, of which there were thankfully few scenes, was boring. It’s simply a combination of timing shield and sword to hopefully hit your opponent at the right moment. In the first fight I wasn’t even hitting the wolf and eventually he went away. I’m not sure if that was supposed to happen. Near the end of session 1, when I thought I was supposed to fight, I realized I wasn’t and finally moved out of there. It was a frustrating few deaths before I realized it wasn’t the poor combat mechanic that was causing me to die but the fact I was supposed to run away. The last combat scene in session 1 I actually hit the enemy, but by then I’d figured out the timing thing (after the first fight) and it was even more boring.
It didn’t get any better as the game progresses, and the boss fight with the knockoff Triforce, called a Trigon, was annoying in the extreme. I gave up trying to figure out the timing and watched a video, that much I’ll admit. Whether it was too hard for me, or the controls too unresponsive, this boss fight made me wish I had never taken up the challenge. In all honesty at least session 2 was more interesting, until the end. The puzzles were complicated, without being impossible, and there were no fights to be annoyed by, again until the end.
The life system is supposed to simulate difficulty I guess? Session 1 has you with 6 stars, which is your life force. Session 2 puts you down to 6, and the last session gives you 4. I did not get to combat in session 3 so I don’t know if this actually made it any worse. I can say, in session 2 the amount of stars made no difference. There is no combat until the end, and even if you figure out the pattern with the Trigon, you can heal during the fight, and the last attack by the boss kills you no matter how many stars you have. It did not affect difficulty at all in that respect.
What can I say, I hope they are intentionally going for bad pixel graphics. I’ve seen mobile games with better graphics, hell I’ve seen Atari games with better. I’m going to assume that the style is intentional, and if so, they did it fine. The backgrounds had a lot going on, and there was a 3D element to the foreground and background, as well as getting trees and bushes to move if you tapped them. That’s actually the one part that I found appealing, the scenery. The lighting was also well done for the type of game, though the darker parts were hindered by screen glare. I had to be careful how I positioned my phone so that I could see the screen rather than a reflection of my face. I suppose, for what they were going for, it was good, just not the style I prefer in games.
The main character, I guess, is female, but if that was supposed to be apparent I missed it. If I had not already heard it on Twitter, and confirmed it on the game’s wiki page, I wouldn’t have known. No name is given, no feminine pronoun is used, so in this case the graphics did a terrible job of conveying the character’s appearance. Was this intentional? Maybe, I don’t know. The only indicator I got, was that when hit, or lifting a heavy object, there was a distinct high-pitched gasp/moan but it could have also been a young boy. Why is this important? You’ll see later. The animation of the characters overall was bad. Too few pixels used, and strange animation just made them all look alien rather than pixelated people.
Yah…with all due respect to Jim Guthrie, the game’s music is bad. It’s repetitive in the extreme, annoying in most parts, and all together distracting. I thought it might get better after session 1, which seemed to be a short introduction, but I was wrong. Even the combat music was less than exciting, and in most cases I just tuned it out completely. I don’t know what else to say, I just didn’t care for it.
I absolutely did not get the plural personal pronouns. “We did this”, “We felt that”. Was the main character including the dog in all that? Most people don’t do that, if you don’t know the dog’s thoughts it’s “Sparky and I.” Maybe the “We” was the main character and me, but usually the player assumes the role of the main character so not sure if that was it either.
I was also completely thrown off by the modern jargon. Things like “Jazzed”, “What’s up with that”, and “move it move it.” There were many others but those were the main ones that dragged me right out of whatever story they were trying to tell. Was the character from the future? Do they just talk in pop culture idioms in whatever world the game is set in? It was entirely immersion breaking.
The extent of the story is what you get in the thought bubbles as you go, and some story in the megatome you find at the end of session 1. In fact, you get to a point where an NPC, Logfella (yah…Logfella, he’s a woodcutter, the other NPC is called Girl) knows about ‘our errand’ before we even do. I’m not sure if I missed something, but I clicked through all of the intro text and read it and I got no back story, no why. Why was the character there, what purpose, what had they been doing up until then? You start on a block, and a dog leads you away. Throughout the game there are elements of the story that just made me shake my head, or sigh in frustration. At one point Logfella is described as “The wood-chopping woodsman chopped wood” and a gate blocks a “Cavernous cave.” Of course the magical part of the game is dominated by three triangles that go together to complete your quest…no, this isn’t Zelda. At one point, after the boss fight of session 2 you wake up with no memory of what happened, yet you proceed to describe the fight with the Trigon to Logfella. Consistency in writing is key to making people come back.
And finally, what sparked this in the first place; is she actually a strong female character?
So far…no. I didn’t even know, based on the game itself, that the main character is a woman. We don’t know why she’s on the quest, or what the quest is. We don’t know what’s up with the dog, where she got her sword, or why she speaks like she’s a group of people. We don’t know where she is from, or what she used to do, or even why she decided to become an adventurer, if that’s even what she is. We have no basis at all to judge whether this is a strong character, much less a strong female. No personality, no quirks, no strengths or weaknesses. Even after playing as far as I did, I didn’t find any quality about the character that made me even care who she is other than a pixelated avatar that is failing to move where instructed based on my finger placement. Does the end give the player more? I don’t know, I didn’t get there.
Final thought, it’s not a terrible game, but it’s not good. It’s what I would expect from a cheap mobile game I guess, but it didn’t even hook me as much as Star Wars Angry Birds did, and even that got old after awhile. The only way I could recommend this game is to see what all the fuss is about, but so far I wouldn’t say anyone should buy it for the sake of having a good time. I gave it a chance after session 1, maybe thinking that it would get better, but I was wrong. I didn’t even finish, and I just can’t drag myself through it any more. When you get to the point in session 3 where you have to perform actions on a real moon cycle, that’s where I stopped. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, you come to a point in the game where you cannot progress unless you wait for real time moon cycles. I’m not the only one that felt this way, after commenting about it on Twitter there were some responses like:
@tjbierschbach That was my exact reaction. “… it boots me out at the end of a chapter and I have to wait for the moon cycle. Dropped.”
— Video Culture Replay (@VCR_Blog) July 25, 2015
I spend a lot of time gaming and I have a lot of games I like to play. If I’m going to devote my precious time to something it needs to be worth it. I’ve read there are ways to go find some magic room in the dream realm to change the moon cycle, or I could cheat and edit my device’s date/time settings to trick the game (which I found out later leaves you with a 99% completion at the end), but I just don’t have the time to devote to a game that wasn’t fun in order to go through all that. So, while I didn’t finish it I can say up to the point I played, I cannot recommend this game. I’ve looked at scenes from the end and it appears that more frustrating and boring combat awaits, so it doesn’t look like I’m missing much.