Crescent Moon Games' Pocket RPG [$2.99] got off to a bit of a rocky start on launch when it was released with some game killing bugs and pulled immediately from the store, but now those have been smoothed over, everyone with an iPad can freely stick an RPG in their giant pockets and take it for a spin. It's equal parts RPG, shooter and light-brawler depending on how you play and although it might seem shallow based on its name, it has a lot to offer.

Pocket RPG can be played with three different character classes, Dark Ranger, Battle Mage and Blade Master. Each has their own skill sets and each play completely differently. If you're looking for a more straight-up duel-stick shooter, the Dark Ranger is for you. If you're into hack-and-slash, go for the Blade Master and if you're looking for a strange combo of the two, go for the Battle Mage. Each character is well defined and changes the way you play the game on a fundamental level.

Each character class gets their own save file, one each. It's a bit confusing at first, because it will initially appear that you only get one save file across the game. As people have pointed out in our forums, the Resume button on the main screen will lead you to the most recently played character and if you select New Quest and another character, you'll continue where you were last at with that character, even though it gives you a warning your file will be overwritten. It's far too confusing of a system and needs to be cleaned up in future updates.

As an actual game, Pocket RPG delivers on its title. It's essentially a looting, mini-roguelike that plays similar to a dual-stick shooter. The main difference is your character's progression isn't tied to the game as a whole, but rather to each individual dungeon. You'll have certain power-ups and skills you upgrade over the course of the game, but after beating each dungeon, your experience points and loot disappears and you start all over again.

It's a strange system, but it works surprisingly well, albeit at the cost of incentivizing any hardcore loot hoarding. You won't get attached to any weapons, there isn't any real armor loot and you won't ever have to struggle with inventory management, but the games title should be enough of an indication this isn't a hardcore experience. As far as XP is concerned, you level up quickly in the later levels and it's hardly noticeable that you have to start over in each dungeon. It plays like an incredibly short roguelike. The one difference is that you'll usually pick up an item early in each dungeon that'll grant you a single extra life. If you die a couple times, you have to start the dungeon over.

The persistent upgrades you make to your character at the end of each dungeon are important and add enhancements to the character progression. You get these by bringing in gold and stars from each dungeon encounter, both successful and unsuccessful. Each character has their own set of skills and special moves controlled by different gestures. For instance, if you're playing as the Dark Ranger, you can add a skill that shoots out poison if you quadruple tap the right stick. It all works well and adds a feeling of character customization lost by the lack of persistent XP, but it would be nice if there was a move-list in-game in case you can't remember which gestures create which attacks.

As we've come to expect from Crescent Moon, the character designs are cutesy and cartoony. The environments are well thought out and almost everything on the ground is destructible for loot hoarding, which is a nice touch. Since the dungeons are partially randomly generated, you'll be able to play though multiple times with a new experience, but since each character plays so differently, it's more worth playing through with each of them once then with one of them multiple times. The dungeons are never overtly complex mazes either, there are a few forking paths throughout, but you'll rarely find yourself wishing there was a map.

There is quite a bit of content here too, with six different areas to explore and as many bosses. Despite it's seeming simplicity, the game can get pretty tough toward the midway point. It's not enough to send anyone home in tears, but chances are you'll have to repeat a few dungeons here and there to grind your skills up enough to beat the final boss.

Pocket RPG is a little different than you probably expect from a looting game, but that's not really a bad thing. It's bite-sized, but versatile, which means you get a lot of length out of it even if it's pretty simple to get through initially. RPG fans and dual-stick shooter fans will have a lot to love here and provided they can add a few tweaks to the menu system they'll have a remarkably solid game. For those looking to get the action into a reasonably sized pocket on iPhone or iPod Touch, Crescent Moon Games has said a new version will be available in around a months time.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Anonymous

    Why was i not surprised to hear it got pulled off the app store for game breaking glitches? Oh yeah aralon...

  • Evan Greenwood

    Thanks Thorin for the review! (that gives us some good perspective to think about)

    We are indeed sorting out the problems with the menu that people on your forums, and yourself, have pointed out (as well as other improvements). It was very silly of us to have let that slip.

  • Bobby

    If I had read about the odd leveling system in advance, I might not have tried it. Which is a shame because it is really, really fun. I can't stop playing it. 

    Unfortunately it does have a crashing bug. Yet I keep booting it back up and playing it. Its completely addictive. The only reason I put down my iPad just now for the evening is that it crashed again. The fact that it crashes and I still keep coming back says a lot for the game. (I really hope the bug is fixed soon though.) 

    • Tower Defender

      Yeah I haven't gotten this game due to reading about that odd leveling system. ... I kinda like having grinded stats that stay.

  • Savio

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. Great post...
    thanks for sharing the info....

  • MisterDrgn

    I'm looking forward to trying it on the iphone.  It seems odd to name a game "Pocket RPG" and then not support the device that actually fits in your pocket...

  • Sfpro9111

    no ipod touch version?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jacob.noergaard Jacob Nørgaard

    There is an update out. Dunno what it fixes, the first version didn't crash here (iPad 2 on 4.3.3). But.... I'm not fond of the resetting of stats and boy, those load times needs improvement. Even on the iPad 2 it takes ages to load levels. I'm from the old days of 30 minute loading times from tape on a Commodore 64, and of course this doesn't load for 30 minutes - more like 30 seconds. But it's loading from flashram. It has the longest loading time of the games I have on my iDevices and I must admit I cannot really see the justifications for it.

  • Marcus Mattingly

    I was looking forward to this one but this is the first time I have heard about the leveling. Bummer.Sounds like it's not really an RPG. I'll pass.

    • Anonymous

      Haven't had any crashes yet, played for about four hours total in two days. Thought the idea of resetting exp. and weapons between dungeons would be a turn off, but it turns out to be an interesting mechanic that makes sense in this game. Plus, I love the idea that you can learn new abilities (i.e., special and passive)  and weapon mastery which DOES carry over to each level. The game is tough - you will die, and come back with better abilities to get you deeper into the quest (a la Infinity Blade, only fun)  - that's what makes it addicting. 

      • Matt Musselman

        I agree. It challenges traditional assumptions of how XP and weapon/armour/item collection are supposed to be, but it actually works. Between dungeons you can invest in some character skills and armour/weapon/item power availability (e.g. you can now find and use ice-attack arrows, vs. only normal and poison ones), and that's the part that takes the place of normal XP-based advancement. But the fact that you lose your XP and items at the end of each major dungeon (you still keep them through the individual level advancement within that dungeon) means that you avoid that ennui that happens in a lot of action/RPGs (e.g. Diablo / Diablo II) where you get a weapon that's so awesome that you stop paying attention to weapon drops ever again, and things would get boring. It also promotes diversity: I found that I played with all the different powers and effects (e.g. poison, ice, fire, ethereal, and bouncing, seeking, piercing, etc) just because sometimes you have to make due with what you have, rather than getting stuck in a favourite rut.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Quickmix Frank Quickmix Hassas

    Great Game :)

  • Jordan

    Is this coming out for iPhone?

    • http://twitter.com/Brendan_Charles Brendan Charles

      In a month or so I believe

  • http://twitter.com/Brendan_Charles Brendan Charles

    This is one of my favourite games to date for the iPad- next to Sword & Sworcery and FF3 - which is strange because I usually *hate* RPG's where your items/XP don't carry over. I still don't like that here, but the rest of the game is addictive and great fun.

  • Kedo

    Looks like Torchlight, sweet!

  • Sddfdha

    How do you start a new game? All my characters have finished the game and i want to start from scratch!

  • BobCat5142

    Should I buy it?

Pocket RPG Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 4.5