Lexi is thrown in the middle of something wicked, unknown and highly annoying. Everyone she tries to talk to behave erratically, and most of them try to kill her. She is having a bad day to say the least. With weapon in hand, fierce hat on head, and cute pet on a leash she sets out to find out the truth about what happened. Or at least to know what happened.
Mage Gauntlet is filled with humorous written dialogue, quirky characters and a general disregard for the standard in fantasy fiction. It lets you play as Lexi, a young driven warrior mage apprentice that strikes first and asks a whole lot of questions later.
There are three different control schemes in Mage Gauntlet, and to me only the D-Pad is slightly wonky. The Analog Stick gives an on-screen stick area that is responsive. The Pro Stick lets you control from wherever you want on the left side of the screen. Both these schemes allow for quick dodge manoeuvres, with some wicked counterattacks. The attack button is also responsive, and I had some concerns initially that there would be too much button mashing. But my concerns where wrong, as the enemies move in patterns that demand constant movement dodging around their attacks. The battles in Mage Gauntlet resemble boxing in this sense with the fighters taking turns, and trying to take advantage of weakness in the opponent. A dash button helps in dodging crowds, but needs to be recharged after a couple of uses. Finally there is the quite odd use of magic that is done by tapping in the upper right corner. This brings you to a screen where you can select a magic attack or ability out of a maximum of four. New magical abilities are found by smashing special items scattered around the levels. This is also how you replenish your life points. I found the idea of going into a separate menu to select magic, and then point it at an enemy kind of weird. It messes up the pace of the game slightly, as everything pauses when you are reading up on what magic to use.
Levels follow the same kind of progression that Rocketcat used in Hook Champ. You get a world map, and unlocked levels are free to visit. Once you enter a newly unlocked level you play the maps in order. Finally you get some kind of boss battle to duke it out. Each new map you enter replenishes your life points, and restores your lives back to three. When Lexi falls in battle you get the choice to retry map, or use a life to get right back in the action. A brilliant way of working around the checkpoint conundrum. When all three lives are lost you have to restart the level.
There are some light RPG elements to the game, but they certainly take a backseat. When Lexi gains a level you can upgrade magic, vigor and luck. Usually you get more abilities to upgrade, but not in Mage Gauntlet. This is perhaps disappointing to the RPG fans, and it should not be viewed as anything related to an RPG. Mage Gauntlet is a dungeon crawler dodge em´ up brawler. Some light exploration is needed to get full star ratings on all levels. In the end most of the gameplay is simply walking into a new area, getting attacked, killing everything, and walk on. What makes it so darn much fun is the fact that the game is quite challenging, and it doesn’t allow you to rely on power alone. You have to be quick, or be dead. The inspiration is drawn from games like Secret Of Mana, but it is kept to the gameplay only. There are no long passages of story, or character build-up. Lexi gets thrown right in the thick of it, and has to adapt to stay alive.
There are hats, weapons, pets, clothes and trinkets to find and equip. All are described with humour, and there is not that much information about what the benefits are. Still it is fun to try the different outfits, and especially the armor, pets and weapons have effect on the abilities of Lexi. New items can be bought through IAP, but these kind of spoil the challenge somewhat and should be avoided unless you find the game impossibly hard.
Rocketcat games have beautiful retro 16-bit graphics that looks amazing. It is hard not to fall in love with this stuff. Enemies are varied in looks, but not really in behaviour. You got three basic enemy patterns: straight attack, charged attack and ranged attack. As the levels progress so do the enemies, and they get quicker and more deadly. Even if there is a lack of patterns you still have to be on your toes.
The music deserves an own mention, as something really great. It is varied expertly crafted chiptune music that is worth the price of the game alone. I have had the game paused for an hour or so writing this review just listening to it. You can have your own music, alongside the sound effects as well.
There are 84 levels in the game, but to reach the second half of these you have to beat the game on the normal difficulty one time. This unlocks master mode that will put hair on Lexi’s chest. 86 funny achievements through Game Center, such as Home Wrecker when you smash the tents for the orcs.
Mage Gauntlet is one of those reminders that, even when the inbox fills up with a list of games to review, playing games is fun. Mage Gauntlet is great fun from the first level to the last, and then you can do it all over again, albeit harder. This is just the first part of a trilogy that is bound to become an iOS classic. Rocketcat games is also known for their loyalty to their games, and updates are bound to come. One of the first things will be making it universal for iPad as well. But don’t wait to get it, as it is initially on sale and that will not happen again.
Mage Gauntlet $1.99 Sale that will end soon
Seller: Rocketcat games