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iPhone App Video Review: The Bard's Tale

by Andrew Koziara

If you never got around to playing it back in the day, now's your chance to download and enjoy The Bard's Tale on iOS. Originally released on the PS2 and Xbox back in 2004, this title garnered something of a cult following due to its hilarious dialogue and characters. It's not a perfect game, but it's massively entertaining, and now it's on your iPhone and iPad.

The Bard's Tale is a top down action RPG, inspired by games such as Baldur's Gate, and even created by some of the same people. The tale stars a nameless selfish bard, voiced by none other than Cary Elwes. Yep, Wesley from The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men In Tights fame not only voiced our almost-hero, but also helped with scriptwriting, and it's awesome. Across from him is the Narrator, voiced by the legendary Tony Jay. There is a lot of fourth wall breaking, as the Bard and Narrator address each other and even the player, and no one seems to get along in this equation, with the narrator often amused to see the Bards failures.

The story is jam packed with fantasy stereotypes and tropes, and is one big adventure parody. There are countless nods to other fantasy game clichés, such as the opening quest which asks you to kill rats in a cellar, except they also happen to breath fire. The dialogue and humor is rather adult in nature, as the Bard is really more interested in, and I quote, "Coin and Cleavage" than anything else. Eventually he's conscripted to save a princess from an evil wizard who has locked her in a tower. Throughout the dialogue, the player can often choose between a "nice" or a "snarky" response, though "nice" isn't always very nice at all. These decisions, honest to god, cross my heart, have lasting long term effects on the story and gameplay. Unfortunately, you can't skip ahead in the dialogue without skipping to the next response choice, causing you to miss massive chunks of it. Not that you'd ever want to skip the excellent voice performances anyway.

Combat and gameplay is where this adventure can fall short. Combat is fairly average, and can be very frustrating down the line. You're main offense other than basic attacking and blocking involves casting spells and summoning companions through the power of music. Using your lute, you'll summon several companions to fight alongside you throughout the game. This is an integral part to the game, and you'll fail miserably without your makeshift party helping you out. Spellcasting takes some time, and you can't move while doing so, which can lead to some frustration. The game is still quite fun, but it can feel clunky at times. You can buy certain weapons and items in-app if you want a quick boost. All items are attainable through persistent gameplay though, and the IAP are just a shortcut.

The game still looks as good as it did back in the day, not that PS2 games look all that amazing anymore. The touch controls aren't perfect, but they're pretty well done. The user interface and menu navigation is very frustrating on an iPhone though. The buttons are just way too small, and it makes something simple into a big chore. The game is iOS Universal though, so if you have and iPad, I recommend trying it there first. The game has an epic soundtrack, including several fully fledged songs, such as everyone's favorite, “The Beer Song.” The soundtrack can totally be downloaded on the game's website for free, by the way. Game Center and OpenFeint achievements are supported, and they even found a way to cram leaderboards in a single player RPG. This game is a steal at only six dollars. Even if the gameplay and touch interface can cause some annoyance, I highly recommend this game just for the story and characters. It is still very funny to this day, and there are hours and hours of enjoyment to be had here. Enjoy!

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