Hello, gentle readers, and welcome to the RPG Reload, the weekly feature where we know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Each week, we take a look at an RPG from the App Store’s past to see how it’s holding up in the far-flung future that is today. It’s a chance to revisit classics, reflect on their place in the overall tapestry, or just to take a deeper dive than our reviews typically allow. As the king of this castle, I try to choose a balanced set of adventures from week to week that represent this incredibly wide genre, but if you feel like I’m missing anything important, please let me know. You can give me suggestions by commenting below, posting in the Official RPG Reload Club thread, or by tweeting me at @RPGReload. As I plan the schedule pretty far in advance, you might not see your suggested game for a while, but rest assured, it will be added to the master list.
We’ve reached the back half of our second annual October celebration of all things spooky and scary in RPGs here in the RPG Reload. The idea is that I try to find RPGs with that good old Hallowe’en spirit to play for this month’s picks. Some of these picks stretch the RPG definition a bit more than I might usually allow during the rest of the year, but with a few allowances, we should have enough games that fit the theme to keep this going for a few more years, at least. I hope you’re enjoying our little tribute to one of my favorite holidays.
First of all, I have to apologize and offer some explanations. Last week, I announced that the next game would be Skulls Of The Shogun (Free), but as you can see from the title, we’re not covering that one. There are two reasons for that. First, I discovered the game is broken in the latest version of iOS. Since the developer has stated clearly that they’re working on a fix, I decided I could let that go and got to work playing the game on older hardware. The next problem, unfortunately, came down to my faulty memory. I had remembered Skulls having some kind of persistent growth that carried over from battle to battle, thus qualifying it, even if a little thinly, as eligible for this feature. After playing a little ways into the game, it was clear that I had misremembered. It’s less Fire Emblem and more Advance Wars, and that means it’s not very RPG-like at all. As I already pushed my luck with Solomon’s Boneyard (Free) last week, I decided to hit the eject button on Skulls Of The Shogun and bring in a pinch hitter. Sorry about that!
This week, we’re taking a look at Productions Multimage’s King Cashing 2 (Free). Why the second game before the first? Well, because this one has zombies, and it’s the Hallowe’en season. We’ll be covering the first game in a later feature for sure, but for now, let’s take a look at the latest, and probably last, game in the series. The King Cashing games are an odd hybrid of RPG and slot machines, a genre that somehow includes more games than just this particular series. On its surface, this mixture seems like cheese and chalk, but if you think about it, there’s an awful lot of gambling to be found in the history of RPGs. Dragon Quest‘s casinos, the various abilities in the Final Fantasy series that have you spinning slots for the result, or even the fundamental act of rolling dice or using RNGs to determine hits and damage. At least in RPGs without an action component, players are essentially learning to be better gamblers. King Cashing (Free) is not that strange when you think of that way.
I’ll go into the origins of the first game when its turn comes around, but for now, it’s enough to say that it released in late 2011, and although it did reasonably well, it didn’t turn a profit. That happens with a lot of games that eventually kick off successful franchises, however, so developer Productions Multimage decided to pull the figurative slot machine’s arm and give it another go. King Cashing 2 released in February of 2013, and it built considerably on the experimental framework introduced in the first title. Although the game received considerable critical acclaim and sold twice as well as the original game, it still wasn’t enough to make money for Multimage. They took one final stab at the idea with the free-to-play Super Zombie Slots (Free), which was basically a free version of King Cashing 2 with a new premium currency and adjusted balance. Releasing several months after King Cashing 2, it seems to have garnered little attention. Since then, Multimage appears to have gone back to their bread and butter, contract work for other companies, with future independent game releases and updates extremely unlikely.
Well, that’s our scary story out of the way for the month, I suppose. Regardless of the sad outcome, the King Cashing games had quite a few fans, and though King Cashing 2 will probably forever have that “Coming Soon" sign slapped on top of its sixth issue, that doesn’t mean what was created isn’t worth celebrating. This is a very solid sequel that fleshes out the basic ideas of the original game very well. It uses a comic book set-up to tell its story, which means there isn’t much in the way of exploration. There are secret locations to open up in each issue, but the game doesn’t obscure how to do that. You just have to score silver medals on all of the battles on that particular page. Like everything else in King Cashing 2, it all comes back around to the battles and how well you can hedge your luck to win as quickly as possible.
You simply proceed from battle to battle, fighting your way through to the end of each issue. You can set up your party and gear as you like between battles, and occasionally do a bit of shopping. This is where most of the strategy of the game comes in. Before you initiate combat, the game will give you some information about your enemy. You’ll be able to see their weaknesses, resistances, immunities, and any other special qualities they might have. This enables you to prepare for each battle by sending in the optimal party. With the battles mostly coming down to luck, it’s important to do everything you can to set the odds in your favor. If you choose to ignore the information the game gives you, you do so at your own risk. Because of the way this is set up, it’s best not to sell off anything until you have a better version of it. You’ll want to be able to grab what you need whenever you need it.
Engaging in any battle costs you some money. If you don’t have enough, you can go back to any previous battle that you’ve cleared with a gold medal to earn some cash. If you haven’t earned a gold medal on any of the stages, well, you can go back to the first stage, I suppose. This cash is the only thing you stand to lose if you fail the battle, so there’s relatively little punishment for failure. That’s probably a good thing, given how random the battles are. Depending on your level and stats, you’ll have a set number of cherries you can spend in each battle. Each turn you take consumes three cherries, and if you don’t finish off the enemy by the time you run out of cherries, you lose.
Your turn consists of pulling the arm on a three-wheel slot machine. The first wheel shows your party members, the second your weapons, with the last displaying your enemy. To successfully attack, you have to line up either a party member or a weapon with the enemy, or preferably, both. Depending on what you have equipped, you might see other items appear on all three wheels, such as extra cherries, gold, or experience points. Enemies can also have shields that will take a single hit in their place. Combining a party member with a weapon will join them in a stronger attack, and if you can combine a party member with their favorite type of weapon, you’ll get some really nice effects. How frequently each item or character appears on the wheel depends on its level, and hard to hit enemies are true to their name by only appearing a few times, with huge valleys of misses between. You’re free to stop the spinning wheels at the same time or individually, and I suppose if you have good timing, you might be able to game the results a little. I’m pretty bad at slots, though, so it might as well be a toss of the dice for me.
While it’s quite random, there are a lot of strategies you can create by setting up your party in different ways. For example, with combinations being as powerful as they are, you might want to stack the deck to try to improve the odds of one character getting their matching item. You can only use three party members, three weapons, and three bonus items at once. If you fill your weapon slots with one type, the matching party member has a greater chance of triggering their special attacks, with the obvious downside being that the other two members will have no chance of making a special attack at all. It can be a wise play if a boss has a particular weakness or resistance, however. The other thing to consider is exactly which weapons you want to bring. Higher damage weapons pack a punch, but they appear fewer times on the wheel. Do you want to have a higher chance of hitting at all, or take a risk for heavier damage? Some enemies can break your characters or weapons, making the stronger weapons even riskier to use.
You’ll also need to carefully select your team members. At first, you won’t have much of a choice, but you’ll eventually have several different characters to build your team from. They each have their own stats, but they’re most differentiated by the type of weapons they can best make use of. The Rambo-esque gunner is great for dealing steady damage, while the tamer can use animals that can inflict status ailments on the enemy. The cyborgette’s robots can deal devastating spike damage, but they’ll explode afterwards and disappear for the rest of the battle, while the alchemist’s potions have a variety of fun effects.
Ideally, you’ll want to be able to use any of them as they’re most needed, but practically, that’s hard to do. There’s only one experience bar, you see, and when you level up, you can pick just one thing to improve. Between leveling up your maximum cherries and luck, you’ll only be able to spare points to level up a few of your party members to any real extent. Fortunately, there are gear pieces that can close the gap a bit, but unless you grind a long time, you’ll never be able to have everyone at their best. Choosing where you want to spend your points at level-up is another big part of the strategy in King Cashing 2. Leveling up a party member increases their damage output, but is that really worth as much as an extra spin in battle?
It’s through decisions like these that the game is able to provide enough texture to keep you interested throughout the majority of its running time. The only big problem I have with it all is that even if you’re constructing perfect strategies, you’ll get to points where you’ll either have to grind or have a tremendous run of luck to proceed. That helps stretch out the game, but I’m not sure if hammering away at an easier battle to try to scrape together an advantage is really all that fun. You really end up having to bank on hitting those combinations, which takes some of the fun out of the multiple strategies. Still, I suppose the mindless grind of the battles are a good fit for the slot motif, and the game certainly is easy to casually grind while you’re doing something else. That’s not the most flattering quality, but it could be worse.
Those little snags aside, it’s hard not to be charmed by King Cashing 2. In taking the setting away from generic fantasy and into a zombie revolution in the modern world, the game finds a whole new identity for itself. Your enemies are goofy caricatures of modern Americans, and although the game occasionally goes a little far with its stereotypes, it’s certainly a breath of fresh air to be battling surly managers in a shopping mart instead of orcs in a field. Sadly, the story was planned to be wrapped up in the sixth issue that never arrived, but if you check the game’s thread in our forum, the developer basically explains what would have happened in that last issue. It’s mostly the disjointed moment-to-moment wackiness and goofy art that makes the atmosphere work, anyway. King Cashing and his undead army crash a beach party, the city’s red light district, and more in his mad thirst for gold and treasures, and with each issue illustrated like a comic book, there are plenty of silly things happening in the backgrounds of panels to enjoy.
Being only a couple of years old, King Cashing 2 is only missing support for a few very recent features, like support for iPhone 6 family screens and controllers. The months following the game’s release saw several updates that not only added additional content, but also new features like extra difficulty settings and ways to speed up animations. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s unlikely the game will see updates in the future due to the developer’s financial situation, but I suppose it’s possible they’ll plug future bugs that aren’t too difficult to fix. After all, Multimage is still around, even if they can’t justify the costs of additional content or games. The game seems to be working well enough at the moment, though, so knock on wood that things stay that way.
Granted, King Cashing is not the scariest game, but it is a lot of fun. And I think Hallowe’en is about the humor of horror as much as it is the terror of it all, so the game is a pretty good fit if you’re trying to get into the cheekier side of the holiday mood. If you’re playing it for the first time, I suggest taking it on in normal difficulty and enjoying the ride, but if you’re replaying, make sure you try the hardcore mode that was added in one of the later updates. It makes death permanent, giving your gambling battles a really nasty bite. It’s tough, but it’ll do the job of giving you a nice slice of King Cashing without necessarily requiring you to grind your way through the whole game. I mean, unless you’re just that good.
That’s just my take on King Cashing 2, though. What do you all think? You can let me know your thoughts on the game by commenting below, posting in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in the forums, or by tweeting me at @RPGReload. We’ll be recording the next episode of the RPG Reload Podcast this weekend, so if you have any questions you’d like answered on the show, drop a line to [email protected]. As for me, I’ll be back next week with another RPG, this time decidedly less comedic in tone. Thanks for reading!
Next Week’s Reload: Shin Megami Tensei ($7.99)