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Monday, August 31, 2009

Game Play: Wolfenstein RPG (iPhone)

Wolfenstein RPG builds off id's former mobile licenses in the same vein, namely Orcs & Elves and DOOM RPG. I'd like to crow like a fanboy on this one, but the reality is that it turns out to be a pretty mixed bag.

The good is that there is plenty of Wolfenstein joy to be had - from posters to classic games to a very familiar "Mein Leiben!" death cry. Also, the interface is well suited to the iPhone, unlike a few other retreads of classic shooters (Duke, I'm looking at you). It's a turn based, grid style dungeon crawl with a dash of depth to it and quite a bit of humor.

Overall, the game is well executed and a decent amount of fun. Combat gets a little redundant as the AI is constrained by the nature of the genre and usually devolves to "shoot with biggest gun available, wait to get shot, repeat". Some items like dynamite and the "syringes" (powerups) add a little flair, which helps. A few of the boss fights require a bit of strategy, but we'll cap that off in the end.

Obvious problems persist, such as bizarre shearing on the maps (id can't get a simple 3D renderer to work?) and I ran into the occasional outright bug (like a Nazi soldier who wasn't really there). Also a few nuisances, like having to kick constant to destroy items and the game's annoying tendency to save for you (more on that in a bit).

My biggest complaint, however, is the last level. So, if you don't want some spoilers - finish reading with the basic gist that the final boss is one of the worst ever designed, not entertaining at all and embarrassing for a company of id's stature.

Spoilers begin now.

The final boss culminates all the annoying behavior of the game into one horrible mess. First, most of your weapons are now completely useless - which is particularly painful when the enemy seems to get an extra move on you constantly. Secondly, there's a restart to the fight where you have to go get the Spear of Destiny - which, kudos for yet another Wolfenstein reference ... but it still feels like you're fighting with a toothpick. Thirdly, if by a rather annoying dance of syringes and poking with the toothpick you manage to damage the end boss *at all* - it has a pool of blood to drink from which 100% heals it. This pool is bottomless. Fourthly, trying to stand on the pool of blood isn't a bad strategy except that the end boss can kick you off it - which hurts like hell.

Finally - if you, like myself, made the mistake of leaving the game while losing to said boss ... the game will save. Automatically. If you, like myself, find yourself in a scenario where you pretty much can't win - you're completely fscked. There's only one game save spot, the game just used it for you ... so congrats, you get to start the whole damn level over again (and hope you don't get stuck again).

There is one, and basically one, strategy to beating the end boss. I'll let readers google it as I've probably spoiled enough so far. If the game had behaved in accordance to decent save game behavior, I probably won't be quite as annoyed with it. And I'll grant, a game that can be beaten in 4 hours or so - maybe having to replay a level to finish doesn't seem like much of a crime. To me though, it seemed cheap, frustrating and utterly anti-climatic. An end boss for completist's - and completist's only ... because there's little entertainment value in it.

So a recommend with caveats. It's fun, but certainly not perfect, and ends with a pretty disappointing finish.

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