Genre mashups always toe a precarious line between providing players with established systems of play while simultaneously turning them upside down by placing them in new environments. If not done well enough, players are left with a completely foreign experience without any familiar gameplay elements to form a grounding experience. In other words, balance is key. The Lost Shield ($0.99), while a relatively basic example of a genre mashup, nevertheless does a decent job achieving that balance. In fact, if not for some more fundamental issues with the game, I’d have no problem heralding it as a rare unqualified success.
Combining action-adventure fundamentals with a brick-breaking combat system, The Lost Shield is an interesting take on a simple genre with some neat nuances. Playing as a warrior that wields a shield that shoots out (and subsequently reflects) a powerful projection that deals damage to all in your path, it’s pretty easy to see the Breakout elements early on. The great thing about The Lost Shield is there’s a bit more content to experience beyond static enemies that masquerade as bricks. You’ll encounter enemies that charge at you, enemies that erratically move to avoid your attacks — you’ll even encounter foes that shoot back, forcing you to balance between avoiding projectiles while making sure that you’re there to bounce your own back. With enemy portals and even boss battles, there’s a decent amount of variety.
Surprisingly, The Lost Shield also does a decent job in preserving some ‘exploration’ elements and makes the game a bit more than simply a re-skin of a Breakout game. Every map has a hidden room that, if discovered, unlocks a bonus stage at the conclusion of that map. There are also doors that can be opened with switches, and tons of environmental barriers that can eventually be destroyed, opening up more paths for your projectile. The currency collected in-game can be spent on permanent upgrades to the various power-ups that are randomly earned in-game. Your ‘brick bar’ consists of your hero and any other adventurers you rescue during your travels. Each one has its own reward for rescue and you can unlock the ability to rescue even more folks within the in-game store.
Beyond the genre mashup, The Lost Shield is also a fun love-letter from a visual standpoint to the titles from the Game Boy era. Monochorme visuals are delightful in their own way and the music features some pretty infectious (if repetitive) tunes. When emulating an art style from this generation, there’s a potential for alienating some players, but I think this game achieves it pretty well.
The biggest issue one can encounter with The Lost Shield has to do with the way it implements its Breakout gameplay. Specifically, the “ball physics” have a habit of not traveling where you think they can go, and attempts to steer the ball with various moves from your paddle unfortunately don’t end with the results expected. It’s almost as if the ball really has a mind of its own and your primary duty is to just keep it in the field of play rather than being able to significantly change its course. This can lead to some pretty ridiculous situations, such as the ball being stuck in a near endless loop in certain areas of the various maps without anything the player can do to change that. Considering each map also carries a time limit, these ‘nuances’ of the ball physics become less of an oddity and more of a frustration.
As stated earlier, typically the hardest job of a game liked The Lost Shield is to successfully meld the multiple genres into a cohesive title. Interestingly enough, this is one of the more achievable aspects of the game. Unfortunately, the issues with the more fundamental elements (namely the ball physics) put a damper on what is otherwise an interesting game. While I’ll certainly say it’s still worth checking out, I feel like some minor tweaks could make it far more enjoyable.