Wayward Souls ($4.99) by Rocketcat Games is a roguelike action-adventure dungeon crawler that is inspired by Spelunky, Secret of Mana, and their previous game, Mage Gauntlet. It’s been a long time coming, but Wayward Souls is finally here, and it’s excellent.
Like many of you, I was a huge fan of Mage Gauntlet when it first came out. I was drawn in to the retro 16-bit graphics and the invisible, but intuitive and responsive controls made the experience quite delightful. It’s been years since Mage Gauntlet came out, and we were promised a kind-of sequel to the game, although not directly. After several delays with development, Wayward Souls has made its way to our iOS devices, and I have to say — it was well worth the wait.
The visuals in Wayward Souls are absolutely splendid. Just like with Mage Gauntlet, it follows in the vintage 16-bit style that stands the test of time. There are 13 different area types, and each one is filled with stunning details and color (when it’s not dark and eerie, of course). The variety of heroes that you can choose from all have their own unique look and personality, as well as the different enemy types that you’ll encounter. The animations in the game are incredibly smooth and fluid, without any lag on my iPhone 5s. Just from how the game runs and looks, it’s clear that Rocketcat Games poured a lot of time into it, and the end result was well worth it.
The music in Wayward Souls is also superb. It is a bit different from the adventurous music you usually hear in games of this type, as it is a bit haunting, depending on the area that you’re in. It’s also quite soothing, to me at least, and a joy to listen to while you play. The sounds are fun as well, as you slash your way through enemies or use powerful spells to fend them off, and break items to find coins. In the end, the music is a great way to top off a game that is already visually appealing.
The game will start you off as a powerful knight, but this is more of a “tutorial,” because once the knight dies, you will have six other characters to choose from (first three are available, then the rest will be unlocked when you beat specific dungeons): Blythe the Warrior, Abbie the Mage, Renee the Rogue, the Adventurer, the Spellsword, and the Cultist. The last three are earned by beating the Bronze, Silver, and Gold level dungeons.
The controls in Wayward Souls are fairly intuitive, and quite easy to pick up and get used to. By default, it will be on the “Pro Swipe” control scheme. To move around, all you need to do is swipe your left finger around, as it is like an invisible joystick. Then tap on the right side of the screen to attack, hold for a powerful charge attack, and swipe vertically to use your special attacks and items. If you aren’t liking these controls, you can also switch to the standard analog controls at any time through the game’s option menu.
The game features different dungeons for you to make your way through, but you’ll only have access to the Mines area at first. Once you beat it, you’ll unlock the next one, and so on. The dungeons will have several floors for you to adventure through, but you’ll need to think about each move you’ll make, because once you die, you’ll have to retry again from the beginning (you can’t keep items) or change your hero if desired. No matter which area you’re in, each game will be procedurally generated (randomized), so it’s never the same run twice.
As you fight your way through hordes of enemies, rare encounters, and even boss battles, you will want to make sure you learn the attack and behavioral patterns of each, because health potions are pretty rare. Your mana/energy gets replenished rather quickly, since all of your attacks depend on it, but the health won’t regenerate over time. The only way you are guaranteed to get some health back is when you make it to the next floor of the dungeon, and even then it’s not that much.
Defeating enemies and breaking items, such as chests and lights, will drop some coins for you — these can be spent before starting a game for various upgrades. The upgrades include stuff like health potions healing you for more health, dealing more physical damage, faster energy rejuvenation, and more. These can be leveled up for better effects, but they will increase in price for each level.
Useful combat items will drop that can enhance your attacks, and you can select these from the in-game menu to activate them. If you ever get lost, there’s a map that can be accessed from the menu. The game will also feature hats that you can find for your hero, which are a fun little extra.
You will find various shrines in the dungeons, and these will grant you with a unique power-up for a short amount of time. Examples of these will include haste for faster movement and attack speed, make you impervious to damage, or you will deal more damage per attack. There are also forges that you can find, and these give you the opportunity to upgrade your weapon into two different paths. These upgrades will give you a secondary effect when attacking, such as shooting out fireballs or stunning enemies when they are hit. However, you’ll need to choose wisely, as you can’t undo this upgrade once it’s done.
Even though the game itself can be infuriatingly difficult, I still love it. The visuals are beautiful, the music is marvelous, the controls are responsive, and the gameplay is addictive and challenging. As you play, you will discover that the best method is to not Zerg everything, but come up with a strategy, because your timing and positioning are crucial in battle, and are key to your survival.
If you can only pick up one paid game this week, I highly recommend that you make it Wayward Souls. It’s the perfect little roguelike action-adventure dungeon crawler game, and it’s a must-have. There are also plenty of content updates planned, and Rocketcat Games will be raising the price of the game by a dollar each time an update comes out, so grab it while it’s cheap!