By Louis Polite / March 17th, 2015
|Title||Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure|
|Release Date||February 21, 2015|
Here we are in iOS territory again! Hey… Hey! Get back here, do not click off this page. I know what you’re thinking. Please, hear me out as I speak about a debatably hidden gem on a not-so-glorified platform in Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure. Auro is a turn-based strategy game that features the hexagonal layout of movement at the low cost of $2.99. What kind of splash will Dinofarm Games make with a game that has a ridiculous title that reminds you of the monster mash?
You are Prince Auro, a spoiled prince who stole a magic staff. Auro played around too much where he wasn’t supposed to and unleashed an even more spoiled prince named Prince Argo. Prince Argo then unleashes lots of minions that are trying to destroy toys or something of that nature. If you want to read more into it, you can watch their intro, which is actually a YouTube video, which is kind of lazily integrated into the main menu screen.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this game, there is a word of caution of what you may be expecting. You should (and I recommend) you play the 31-level tutorial of the game. It’s actually very fun and intriguing to go through. You are taught the mechanics of movement from space to space. Being that Auro plays on a hexagon-based map, you can always move in six directions. The game throws in all sorts of new tricks, new mechanics and new enemies as you progressively go through the tutorial. It feels fun and fledgling-like as you go on, with a very whimsical guide telling you how to play. The game takes a bit of a turn when you start the actual game, however — something that is very common to the iOS genre, but this is one of the stronger examples. To many of you readers — and this includes me — you will end up expecting something in comparison to the Advance Wars series of a dynamic, progressing storyline and going through predetermined levels that incline very methodically on the brain.
If that’s what you expect, you will be disappointed because, when you start the main game, you will find it’s a ladder-based challenge mode. It will feel like you are endlessly training on and on. It keeps a ranking system and places you in that ranking system based on how well you do in a placement test. From there on out, every time you win a game, it gives you points. If you get enough points, the difficulty of the levels increases, which is a mixed bag. It does provide harder versions of enemies you see in the beginning, and they do require more attention to nuances as you progress. The con is that all it really seems like they do is raise the amount of points (which are gained by killing enemies by either knocking them off an edge or by other means of disaster spells) you need to pass the level. If you lose, you lose points. You lose enough and you will drop a rank. If you keep winning several games in a row, you will get more and more points each time. That’s a clever way of letting the game know you are too far down, so it boosts you up faster for winning so many in a row.
If you can get past that type of gameplay style, then you may actually enjoy Auro. I was so heavily mind-boggled by this twist that I had to make sure the game was practically endless by contacting Dinofarm Games. Apparently it is true, but they suggested a very intriguing way to look at it. It’s like practicing a martial art, something you learn and get better at every day. When I think of it that way, that relates to how I play some less elusive titles like Ninja Gaiden or even comparable to fighting games, having to get better at the game’s craft every day. A discipline. I completely agree, because Auro is like this in every way.
The object of the game is to bump your enemies off the stage. Generally, you can only bump them one space in the direction you are facing. Every time an enemy lights up, it means they are able to harm you (but not necessarily bump you). If you lose all of your barrier points via being attacked or being bumped off the stage, you lose the level. That mostly applies to the basic mouse-enemies that only move one space and don’t do anything fancy. You are able to make a run for it and go the warp zone at the end of each section in a level to replenish two of your barrier points and some of your spells (oh, we’ll get to that in a bit) if you feel like you just can’t take them all. Keep in mind that all enemies will move in a similar direction you’ve last moved.
I mentioned earlier that killing enemies gives you points, and you need a certain amount of points to complete a level. There is a meter in the upper-left corner that tells you how many points you will get for your next kill. You will get anywhere between one to four points depending on how full that meter is. The meter is determined by how often you are killing enemies and how consistently you’re doing it. Every time you move, you lose a segment. Lose enough segments, and the amount of points your next kill is worth goes down. Every time you kill an enemy or go to a warp point, you get more segments back. That means that, to get four points per each kill, you’d have to kill someone every two moves. That means you can essentially blow through entire levels fairly quickly if you know the nuances of this game very well.
There are particularly annoying enemies such as slimes, which only bump you back but don’t damage. When you bump a slime, however, they turn flat for several turns and anything that walks on top of it is bounced 2 spaces in the direction they were going. This can be manipulated to spring enemies off the stage. You have sneaky enemies called a “Foxy” that can only attack from 2 spaces away. These guys will make you want to toss your fancy iPhone across the room. Don’t do that, though, just be wary and save yourself the loss of your phone. You have enemies that float and, therefore, need to be frozen to cause them to stop flying and fall, or you have to send them into hazardous objects to be removed from the field. Then, you have all kinds of heavy enemies that you cannot move unless they are standing in a vortex or ice. They can be manipulated by spells that cause vortexes or, since they are too heavy, putting ice blocks to extend the stage and luring them off to break through the ice.
You are given different varieties of spells at random in each level. These spells are complete game-changers. They range from setting a whole row on fire, turning the next “honeycomb” (that’s how I refer to all the spaces next to you) shape of spaces into ice, which can even go off the stage, freezing enemies, blowing all enemies several spaces and much more. Once you use the set spells given to you, they only recharge by grabbing colorful cube-looking objects, with some spells needing three and others needing five. Some spells you get are one-use only, based on the pieces of candy you find on the ground that contain that spell. These things can get you out of a jam. With all of these spells, the complexities of the patterns of each enemy and the fact that you can ditch and warp to the next section hoping you’d have an easier time, all that makes this a very deep game.
There are some small issues to address, like the fact that the game is sorely lacking in other modes. You could have so much more aside from “procedurally-generated maps” (like the website says) and have special boss battles or something like that to break up the overly steady pace of the game. I don’t want to try to force this to be a story game, but there are little notes you get that try to “expand” on the story that you can collect through the levels. They’re very scattershot and bland to read, though, so it doesn’t really develop anything, which is a shame since they might confuse you into thinking it’s trying to expand upon the story. Also a few technical issues pop up, like if you get a tie (at least the tutorial) and get killed while you complete a mission, it says you lost and to try again, but then lets you clear the level. I’m not a fan of loose programming like that.
The graphics aren’t groundbreaking for iOS standards, but I can tell Dinofarm Games wants to be iconic with the animation of Prince Auro. He looks like he’d fit right into retro-game design and that’s an A+ attribute for someone like me. The music — well… the limited amount you hear — is greatly composed and, again, can tingle the hearts of fans of the music from old-school 2D games. The presentation of this game is pretty inspired, I can tell, and that’s top-notch.
Dear Dinofarm Games, you’ve actually earned my respect as a hardened gamer that generally despises the iOS market. Dinofarm Games ethics on their website also tells all and, from what I played in this game, they’re all true. Especially the one that says that they will not waste your time. Auro does not waste your time from the optional tutorial to even to the point of this game having an option that skips all animations of the game and gives instant results. If you take this game and expand upon it more with the lore you’ve presented, you will strike gold. This is the kind of game that your typical home console and handheld gamers (at least the likes that visit game sites like this) would enjoy on a grander scale. Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure is a worthwhile experience for only $2.99. There’s nothing more emotionally-driven than a game with a lot of potential to succeed with just a tad more expansion on it, and that’s what Auro is. For now (with more updates to come), Auro is a hidden gem on mobile phones. Especially for those who want to play a game with a mentality of peace of mind, enhancing your disciplinary thinking and looking for a deep strategy experience.
Review Copy Provided by Developer