Battrix does things a little differently, taking one concept that’s been seen a few times before and pushing it to such an extreme that it feels fresh. It seems to be the only app on the iStore by Opus Studio Inc, which feels like a shame because it’s competently made and promises great things for any follow-up titles that sadly won’t be appearing. Still it makes this title something of a hidden gem.
The central premise of Battrix is that the world has been utterly decimated; in fact it’s just an endless ocean with a few squares worth of grassland and a castle at the games outset. Your mission statement from that moment on is simple; unlock the rest of the world one square at a time. Other games have of course done something similar in the past, in fact a great many lock away content on the world map or mask it from view until you are able to approach it, but this puzzle-like structure that only stops exploration with the power of the monsters you’ll face feels wonderfully free.
Graphically the game is going straight for the nostalgia sweet-spot with a simple pixilated art style. The whole thing is rendered in-engine to allow for a seamless experience and everything is vividly colourful. There’s a degree of customization to the character you play, with you deciding skin colour, sex and hair colour at the games outset and equipped items showing up on display. Design-wise it’s simple to look at but immediately everything stands out as cute, retro or interesting. If you had to rebuild a world piece by piece you’d expect the grass to be perfectly green and the water calm blue. Menus are simple to use and functional but nothing special, largely utilizing black as a background colour with white text.
Music is the kind of chip-tunes you’d see on a Master System or Nintendo Entertainment System back in their day and compliments the graphics perfectly. It’s nothing special per-say but it does allow for an upbeat tone and drives the game along with energy. Sound effects are enjoyable as well, especially the confirm button which has a satisfying echo when decisions are made. You may want to turn the game over to silent with company present however as it can get repetitive and grating if you’re not the one actually playing the game.
The is a story to be had here, but its bare-bones and can’t be considered anything other than a cliché. After entering the last remaining castle you’re greeted by the king who assumes you’re the hero he requested and promptly tasks you with rebuilding the shattered land. Soon after you’re joined by a fairy who will be your companion for the duration of the game and serve as your character’s voice for the sake of conversations while you remain stiffly silent in true Zelda-like glory. You’ll also find a few NPCs as you explore including a princess and a young local lad who wants to be a warrior and may or may not be the actual hero who was requested at the games outset. Shakespeare it is not, but there’s a lot of fun in the script and the premise is such that everything can happily flow from it without the plot feeling labored.
Gameplay is of course where this title shines, and although it lacks staying power the way everything works together is solid and well devised. Every square on the map with the exception of the palace and smithies you find are a battle waiting to happen. You can move to any space currently uncovered with a simple touch, these are optional combats since they are already cleared. Clearing a square reveals 1 or more spaces around it in red, which must also be cleared, and so on, etc. Eventually you get quite a map going and the game world is huge in scale. Healing is limited each day, which means you can play as much as you like but be aware that you’ll need to drop in-game currency on a few heals and then wait a day for the next big session. Different locations also have varying rates and HP restored in total so be aware of this. Weapons, armor and other equipment all get purchased or found after battles as standard, but you can upgrade these with a number of special effects at smithies including increasing damage, range and cool-down effect. These are very handy for battles, which make up 90% of the game. Combat is a series of monsters dropped onto a grid in varying formations. Your task is to clear our several waves of them before they deplete you HP or that or your ally. Every weapon has a different shape to it that deals damage to multiple enemies that fall into that shape, with enemies ticking down as they grow red over time before attacking you in a turn-based fashion. You can quickly become swamped if you play this wrong and some enemies deal more damage or are harder to stall than others. Hitting an enemy stalls it a little, buying you time. At any time you can switch out for an ally that’s another player’s avatar selected from a local list or an NPC you’ve met, buying you more time and letting them use their own weapons. A few premium weapons exist for purchase from an online store with real money, but they’re not necessary to very expensive to use. Logging in daily yields energy crystals that help level weapons and liking the game on Facebook gives an influx once a month. To mix things up random limited time events on the world map offer challenges with hefty rewards, as well as an arena for survival runs and other goodness. Some dungeons are huge in nature with wave after wave of monsters coming at you. The game starts easy enough and the challenge never gets out of hand due to the ability to explore in different directions, grinding your character. Overall it’s well pitched.
Sadly the game doesn’t have staying power once the map is cleared and close to the end you’re only ticking off odd patches you missed. This damages an otherwise fun experience, though the fact it’s not reliant on being online at all times does allow for some casual on-the-fly play time. At the price of free it’s hard not to recommend it, but there’s a significant investment here that many won’t be up for. Sadly there’s not been any release from the games developers since it showed promise and the game has flown under the radar for the most part. If you like puzzle/RPG hybrids that aren’t match 3 related then this is certainly the game for you.