There’s a special place in many gamers’ hearts for Nintendo’s Game & Watch series. In the early 80s, simple LCD handhelds were quite popular, and many older gamers likely had at least one (my family had the iconic orange dual-screen Donkey Kong, which unfortunately has been lost to time). In fact, they’ve remained so popular that I’m sure even younger gamers have had the chance to play at least one… although I’m sure the magic is lost in comparison to what can be achieved on an iPhone these days.
Still, that special feeling that an LCD game provides was enough to spur developers LCDemakes into action. The clue, really, is in their name; they intend to take popular franchises and break them down to their core components, essentially distilling a complex modern title and building what remains into an LCD-style game. Game of Watchcraft: Spawn of Squishy is their first such title for Apple’s iPad, and if it’s not clear, they took the challenge on head first: with super popular MMORPG World of Warcraft.
Watering down a highly complex RPG does result in a very different game, it must be said. However, I highly commend the achievement as it very much contains all of the core activities undertaken in WoW. Splaying a Squishy, a monk, players are tasked with 4 quests played out over two unchanging screens. The bottom screen contains grind quests: kill a set number of goblins, or open a set number of chests. Completing one of these unlocks the path to the top screen (of course, both are displayed on the large iPad screen, which is why this is iPad only), where players are tasked with killing a set number of minions or taking out the boss. Completing one of these quests will provide the player with one of three loot items. All the while, the player accrues experience points, and levels up – the game looping in this manner indefinitely, with quests getting increasingly difficult over time.
As a game, it is extremely simple, but there’s so much enjoyment to be found in the simplicity. In the same manner as LCD games of old, Squishy moves one position on the screen with every press of the directional pad, as do enemies. Timing is important, and it is easy to misinterpret the moves of an enemy across the screen; again, like an LCD title of old, there is only one place that each image can appear (and it was lovely to see that the developers included the LCD load screen, which flashes all possible permutations on screen at once). The sounds are authentic, the screen and sprites have been lovingly rendered (the backgrounds even look like painted overlays, which is another nice touch), and the physical device that is emulated on screen? It looks authentic as well. Awesome.
From a WoW perspective, it ticks a few of the basic boxes, as outlined above (quests, grinding, levelling, bosses, loot, etc.), but there are little touches that are endearing as well, such as the exclamation mark that appears over the head of the quest giver on each screen, and the mount that is used to move between the top and bottom screens. Defeating the boss requires magic, and mana depletes over time as well, so there is a need to have mana refilled when battling the boss, which is another interesting touch – as is the resurrection as a ghost at a graveyard after death. LCDemakes has endeavoured to include as much detail as possible, and it really makes for a lot of silly fun.
But that’s all. It’s a very simple game, and it’s draw mostly relies on nostalgia and quirkiness; beyond that, there’s not much to it. Like an LCD title, it gets quite difficult, and there’s no real end point in sight, so it’s quite easy to lose interest. Of course, it’s designed for bite-sized game sessions, and never makes itself out to be a hardcore title, but if you are looking for something that will take considerable time out of your life, this is not likely to be the game to do so. However, it doesn’t need to be any more than it is – a fun distraction, and for the price, it’s more than worthwhile (regularly $2.99 on the App Store, but currently on sale for $0.99 to celebrate its “New & Noteworthy” status). If you have a retro bone in your body, it will be a couple of dollars well spent. If not? It’s still fun for what it is, if a little short lived.
Game and Watchcraft is now available worldwide on the iPad.
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