Maze Lord ($1.99) by Crescent Moon Games and Jetdogs is a roguelike puzzle game that will have you using your noggin’ to traverse through a dangerous dungeon to face off against an insidious dragon. If you enjoyed games like Dungelot: Shattered Lands and The Nightmare Cooperative, then chances are high that you will enjoy Maze Lord.
Over the past few years, there is no doubt that roguelike puzzles have risen in popularity, and nowadays they’re pretty much a dime-a-dozen on the App Store. I’ve grown to love them since I was introduced to them several years ago, but let’s face it — most of them are the same thing with a different skin now. Despite that fact, I still enjoy seeing what’s new in the world of mobile gaming, so naturally, when I heard of Maze Lord, I was intrigued as it combines two of my favorite genres together: roguelike RPGs and puzzles. Plus, it’s from Crescent Moon Games, which is a developer that I’m a big fan of after releases like Legend of the Skyfish, Pocket RPG: iPhone Edition, and Shadow Blade: Reload, so Maze Lord was just another title I had to have in my mobile game collection. And I must say that Maze Lord does not disappoint.
In terms of visuals, Maze Lord features a rather cartoonish aesthetic that definitely reminds me of the Dungelot games. Despite the cartoon-like art style, the game is packed with fine details that include textures for the maze-style dungeon rooms, the lighting effects, and the nicely rendered character models for your protagonist and all of the different enemy types that you’ll be encountering. The color palette used ranges from bright and vibrant hues for character sprites and items to darker, earthy tones for the room floors, walls, and doors. All of the animations in Maze Lord are smooth and fluid, and character sprites come alive with bouncy idle animations. The game has an adventurous yet soothing soundtrack in the background, and the sound effects when you perform various actions is rather realistic. Overall, the developers did an excellent job with Maze Lord’s visuals and audio, in my opinion, and it’s one reason I’ll keep coming back to the game.
Unlike other roguelike games, Maze Lord sets itself apart from the rest by having levels (it’s more of a puzzle game), so it’s more of a pseudo roguelike in that matter. On the first launch, players will go through a brief tutorial that consists of the first few levels to explain the basics of the game. After that, you’re on your own to solve the puzzles and make your way to fame and fortune, as well as defeating a tough dragon. The goal of the game is simple: get your character through each room grid by making his way to the door in order to reach the next area. While it sounds simple enough, players will find that the labyrinth of the dungeon gets much more intricate and complex the further you go, and there will be many more obstacles and enemies that stand in your way. And unlike games like Dungelot, Maze Lord consists of actual puzzles that can only be solved in certain ways, so if you make a mistake, chances are high that you’ll have to restart and try to figure out the proper solution. Up to three stars can be earned on each stage as well, depending on how many steps it takes you to solve the puzzle, and netting three stars will get you special artifacts that can be traded in for rewards in the Shop. The number of steps you’re allotted is shown on the door that you need to reach.
Controls in Maze Lord are pretty intuitive and responsive. To have your character move, just tap on the square that you want to move to and, assuming that it’s possible, he will go towards that particular square. But as you go, you’ll encounter doors that require keys, and enemies that will take away a heart (you start with three) when you get past them by attacking. Potions will restore a heart, and sometimes keys need to be “bought” by trading a gold coin for it, so you have to get the coin on the stage first. If you get an item and don’t need to use it right away, it gets held in your stash, which you can access with a tap from the bottom of the screen.
Like I mentioned earlier, the further you get in the game, the more complicated the puzzles get, and sometimes there is only one specific solution to clear it. If you make a mistake, just tap on the gear icon in the bottom left corner to access the game menu, where you can choose to go back to the level select screen or restart the current level. For quick restarting, you can just tap on the restart button in the bottom right corner as well. Experience points are earned when you complete a puzzle, with more points awarded to you if you solve it in fewer moves. The artifacts you find can be exchanged for red crystals, which you can use to resurrect your hero if you die or run out of steps. As you are introduced to new game mechanics in the puzzles, new items become available for your use, like torches to get rid of spider webs.
I’m still in the early stages of Maze Lord but I’m enjoying the game a lot so far. The graphics look fantastic on Retina screens, the music and sound effects are fun and calming, the controls feel natural on touch screens, and the puzzle gameplay is rather challenging at a nice, gradual pace. This is certainly a game I’ll continue playing for a while.
I recommend giving Maze Lord a try if you’re in the mood for a little hidden gem among the roguelike puzzler category. You can find Maze Lord on the App Store as a universal download for just $1.99 for a limited time (30 percent off the regular price). There are no in-app purchases.