Mobile gamers looking for some compact role-playing thrills will savor the beautiful but violent dungeon crawling world of ORC: Vengeance (Chillingo and Big Cave Games, reviewed for iPad 2, $2.99).
The stunning fun begins the moment the iPad app launches to reveal an animated, grizzled Orc warchief named Rok sitting upon a throne, with the pomposity and confidence of Conan the Barbarian, and bellowing a daring growl and laugh.
A five-act, multi-chapter, hack-and-slash campaign soon follows and, through a near over-the-top perspective, a player controls the warrior armed with axes, swords, shields and big boots made for stomping.
On a mission to save the lands of Argon and his brethren from the dreaded Dark One, and his undead minions, Rok battles cave bats, venom-spitting spiders, sword-wielding skeletons (Ray Harryhausen fans will get a kick out of these), armored jailers, health-sucking wraiths, lumbering undead, savage goblins, flaming zombies, acid-puking brutes and … you get the idea.
The uncomplicated game mechanics allows the fluid movement of the warrior by tapping an area onscreen and he walks over to the spot, or tapping an enemy and Rok immediately attacks.
In the purest and simplest of role-playing resource-management designs, the player collects gold and items locked in treasure chests or dropped by fallen enemies to either use or sell to a vendor or purchase new weapons.
He also levels up after battles and can use points to enhance his health, defense, greed (collect extra gold quicker) and access super attacks called vengeance. Specifically, four slots are eventually unlocked and easily configured (drag an available icon to each) for gesture-based movements on the iPad touch screen.
For example, I quickly set up and used a double tap to unleash a ground slam, a swipe delivered a Berserker attack, and I drew a circle for a shield bash on a foe and a zigzag to restore some health with an available potion.
While on quests, lightening effects, rain, crumbling castle passages, mist-filled crypts, shadowy hallways, bursts of sunlight rays on gargoyles, waterfalls, fire and ice effects all lead to some dazzling visuals in the iPad environment.
Other moments worth noting during my epic battles include stopping to read book passages about Orc lore, fighting through a spiders' lair in the finest of traditions of an "Alien" infestation and collecting enough coins to finally buy the Cleaver of Souls axe from an appreciative Orc merchant.
However, the controls may initially frustrate as holding a finger on the screen to run or the double tap can occasionally confuse Rok in the middle of hectic action.
A virtual directional pad during some simmering boss battles would have been a good idea, but I eventually felt very comfortable with the control scheme.
Of course, that's a minor quibble as ORC: Vengeance provides a micro-world of adventure at a ridiculously cheap price for those who appreciate Diablo, World of Warcraft and getting stuck in the Mines of Moria.
The only regret is the hours spent with my new pal Rok are just not enough. I am sharpening his sword in wait for new quests, hopefully delivered via download in the near future.
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