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There have been a multitude of classic style Action RPG's for iOS devices, and I can honestly say that Mage Gauntlet by Rocketcat Games is easily my favorite yet. The Hook Trilogy developers have branched out and created an Action RPG that is built from the ground up for touch screen devices, and it's a perfect storm of retro graphics, fast combat, excellent music, and a humorous fantasy world that no one should miss.
The main character of this adventure is Lexi, a spunky girl with something of a magic deficiency that keeps her from casting spells and causes all magic devices she touches to explode. She also has Incredible Hulk-like upper body strength, because she can smash plants, furniture, and even statues completely to pieces with a single blow. Seeking the aid of a wise old wizard, she eventually attains a special gauntlet that seems to nullify the effects and somehow makes her even more physically strong. This and that happens, and whaddaya know? You're saving the world and whatnot.
The game progression consists of moving from zone to zone from an over world map, with most zones containing three areas and likely a boss. Any zone can be revisited at any time to search for items or score a higher rating. Combat is simple and starts out extremely easy, but it quickly becomes a challenge as you dance back and forth with enemies, dodging attacks and finding your moment to strike. Due to her affliction, spells don't come from within Lexi, but are instead found in the environment and absorbed by the gauntlet. You can only carry four spells at a time, so it's about knowing when to use spells and when to be conservative.
Rather than trying to port an RPG experience to the phone, this game is specially designed for a touch screen. The touch controls come in three variations, D-pad, Analog Stick, and Pro Stick, which is just an invisible version of a "touch-anywhere" analog stick whenever you touch the left side of the screen. There are only two buttons to worry about, attack and dash. Spell casting is handled through a quick menu selection, and all the spells have touch based aiming. There aren't many stats to increase or a dozen equipment slots, but rather only three tats to upgrade (magic, vigor, and luck), four equipment slots, and a pet slot. The game is less about statistics and more about special item effects, such as robes that amplify certain spells, trinkets that make certain spells more likely to appear, or weapons that have a small chance to give you extra health. Pets usually act as straight up stat boosters. In true Rocketcat fashion, the game is drowning in hats, none of which affect game play, but all of which are stylin'.
The game's 16 bit graphics and sound are excellently done, and this game feels right at home alongside the classics. I can't go on enough about how much I enjoy the music in this game. The world and story are overflowing with nods and references to other games, not to mention jokes about various RPG tropes and clichés, especially regarding achievements. But despite this, the game has its own identity. The simple act of casting a strong willed female in the lead role already sets this game apart from most games in existence. If I had to pick any flaws, it would be that the controls can occasionally be awkward or difficult, though never often enough to ruin the game. Another flaw is that you have to choose between Game Center or OpenFeint achievements, and you can't earn for both at the same time. I haven't even mentioned the plethora of items and equipment to find, in-app purchases for special black market items, or the unlockable Master Mode that puts you through an even more challenging version of the campaign. This app can be yours for three dollars, and it's worth every cent. Especially if you're an old school action RPG fan.