Mage Gauntlet: A ten minute review of ten minutes of gaming.

24Oct11

This isn’t a review.

I bought Mage Gauntlet the other day. I was quite excited about it, I haven’t been nose deep in an adventure/RPG type game since Okami probably. The idea of some 16bit style action in this vein was alluring.

On iOS, ten minutes is enough time to go to the app store, search for a game, buy it, install it, play it, realise you don’t like it and delete it. (Or, realise you do like it, go to your forum of choice and rave about it, or ‘twitter dat’.)

If you are making a game for iOS, it’s pretty important to remember that you are always only one button press away from being quit. 

I played Mage Gauntlet for about 10-15 minutes. This got me: through the intro screen (got some hats for this), through a few walls of (rather dull) text and into the game. Here I ran from screen to screen (to screen) I met a wizard, the wizard disappeared.

That was it. One button away. That was my boredom threshold and that button got pressed. Our first date was over, don’t push notify me, I’ll call you. I think I went into the relationship with good intentions. I wanted what the game was offering, yet here I am bitching about it. Will I go back and play it again? I’d like to say yes but in the real world I just don’t know.

Creating a game in the 16 bit style on iOS is wonderful. It’s a chance to combine the powerful nostalgia many of us have with new ideas. It can involve taking the best bits of the era with the power of hindsight, chopping out the bad bits, leaving out the filler and taking advantages of the host platform, the new tech, everything we’ve learned from back in the day and an enormous amount of gaming experience.

One of worst approaches to take when recreating a Super Nintendo type isometric adventure is to include the parts we may have really wanted back in the day but are obsolete now or even huge negatives. In the 90s, games cost a million pounds each, we got one or two a year and wanted them to last as long as possible. Now we have access to a million games that cost a pound each and we demand they deliver fun at high speed.

In this instance I find it infuriating that such obvious lessons or guidelines or whatever spider sense you should have when developing for iOS are swept aside when it’s all so crucial to the success of the game. You don’t need data driven design, A/B testing, metrics, stats analysis and interpretation to know these things – they’re obvious – and if they’re not obvious to you because you’re so involved, get someone who’s not to tell you.

Mage Gauntlet should lose the long intro, get me into the game immediately and then give me the story when we have built that gamer/game relationship up. That first ten minutes should be the start of a James Bond film.

And that’s my ten minutes up.

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