Mage Gauntlet, from Hook Champ, Super QuickHook, and Hook Worlds creator Rocketcat Games, is the modern 16-bit action role playing game you've been waiting for. Everything about it is retro, from the level design to the pixel art, only instead of having to dust off your SNES, you just fire up your iOS device. In a decidedly awesome twist, this RPG doesn't take hours of playing before you can get into it, opening it up for shorter mobile sessions and casual gamers alike!
Mage Gauntlet puts you in control of Lexi, a young woman out to prove herself to the local wizard Whitebeard. Things don't quite go as planned, however, and Lexi finds herself armed with a weapon, gathering spells and equipping armor as she fights her way across forest and mountain. Controls are of the virtual type, with the left side tied to movement and a few dedicated buttons on the right that allow you to attack, dash, and select spells. If virtual controls make you shudder, fear not, as Mage Gauntlet works very well with them and features a number of options to let you customize your experience.
With every RPG, combat, items, spells and equipment are handled in a slightly different way. For Mage Gauntlet, everything is touch screen friendly and surprisingly light on statistics. Weapons, for example, are largely prized for their special ability, not some stat they endow upon the wearer. The same goes for armor and other wearables. Magic is very unusual in that you must collect bits of energy in order to gain a spell, and when you do, which spell you have is random. You can only hold four spells at once, making you appreciate their value.
While simple gameplay was obviously the focus when Mage Gauntlet was in production, that's not to say there's no meat on this RPG's bones. You'll level up just like in any role playing game, assigning points to upgrade stats in a special menu. There are also some in-app purchases you can browse. Completely optional, of course, but quite fun. Flaming hats, hurrah!
Analysis: Mage Gauntlet is one of the most playable and enjoyable retro-styled action RPGs on the iTunes App Store. Those aren't words aren't to be taken lightly, as there are some serious competitors in that category. It's Mage Gauntlet's ability not to take itself so seriously that makes it so good, and stripping out complex statistics and item management in favor of clean, old fashioned fun has made it better than you can imagine.
Like any true retro game (and like most modern games should be doing), Mage Gauntlet focuses on a few basics and tunes them until they make for interesting gameplay. Different enemies, for example, unleash different attacks, and all have to be dealt with in a slightly different way. Learning these strategies is half the fun of the game, and even though you'll die a few more times than you're willing to admit, it's worth it to get back up and try the level again, just to see what secret passageways and loot you can uncover the second time around.
Mage Gauntlet affords several hours of excellent action/RPG gameplay if you simply blaze through from beginning to end. After beating it, though, you'll unlock a new mode that changes the levels around, adds new secrets, different loot, and more enemies to contend with. Beat the game again and you get a new ending along with the ability to replay levels to unlock new pets. If you're a perfectionist, there's plenty to work on in this game, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts!
A labor of love from beginning to end, Mage Gauntlet is a fantastic action role playing game that will tickle nostalgic gamers to the bone while staying open and inviting for everyone else.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.