Old-school gamers will recognize much of the inspiration behind Mage Gauntlet, an upcoming iPhone action role-playing game that pays homage to many Super Nintendo classics.
Square Enix’s Secret of Mana might be the most obvious tribute in the beautifully scored launch trailer for Mage Gauntlet (shown above), which will be out next week. But creator Kepa Auwae says he was also inspired by lesser-known classics like Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Evermore. The goal is to hark back to a time when games were less about mundane number-crunching and more about the sheer joy of play.
Mage Gauntlet, slated for release this week, is inspired by “a whole era of games where you could use the word ‘quest’ to describe the goal,” Auwae said in an e-mail.
“Before ‘quest’ meant ‘collect 20 firewood, slowly run back, get 500 experience,’” he added. “I’m not sure what game was the first to really warp the definition of the word to mean ‘boring task.’ I blame Everquest.”
Auwae calls Mage Gauntlet “a humorous storyline about hitting jerks with a sword [and] blowing them up with spells.” You play Lexi, a wannabe wizard with a strange condition that prevents her from realizing her magical potential. She visits the renowned mage Whitebeard to ask for help, but he’s busy with a problem of his own: An evil entity is gathering its forces, and the wizards tasked with fighting it are all MIA.
“You have to find them and learn why they’ve been slacking off,” Auwae said. “You smash things, slash at things [and] explode things in the process.”
Combat is fast-paced and Lexi is a beastly, but fragile fighter, Auwae says. You can dash, evade and use a whole bunch of special attacks, including fiery spells and wide slashes, to take enemies down. You can also collect a variety of loot, pets and up to 110 different hats, which Auwae assures us will be very important.
‘We didn’t really like the direction games were going in.’
Of course, the major hindrance for any SNES-inspired iPhone game is its control scheme. The iPhone’s touchscreen interface doesn’t lend itself as well to action RPGs as a standard analog controller, and many iOS games have been criticized as a result. Auwae says that the team has taken steps to avoid this.
“[We designed] Mage Gauntlet from the ground up to work well with the touchscreen,” he said. “I think people will be surprised, especially if they’ve played a sloppy-controls Korean RPG on the App Store.”
The game looks impressive, especially considering the size of the indie development team behind it. Studio Rocketcat Games, previously responsible for iPhone games Hook World, Super QuickHook and Hook Champ, is composed only of Auwae and a couple of friends that he met while playing the old MMO Asheron’s Call.
With Mage Gauntlet, the team hopes to get one step closer to their ultimate goal: the perfect game, one that so far only exists in their minds.
“A few years ago we decided we didn’t really like what direction games were going in for the most part, so we decided to start making games,” Auwae said. “The idea is that we could eventually make our dream game, even though we had zero industry experience or training at the time. We’re getting there.”