I was planning on writing this review over a week ago, the problem with that was I just couldn’t stop playing long enough to sit in front of the trusty old laptop and type it up. Luckily today I’m babysitting my nephew, so while he watches his new favourite, The Oddbods, I’ll finally write my review. So without further ado (or procrastinating) let me tell you about Stories of Bethem: Full Moon (Free). This is the second iOS game by Cristobal Mata of GuGames, and we are promised it will be a real “classic style adventure".
You certainly do set out on a classic adventure. You play as Khoma, a young man on a quest to save his father from the Blue Witch of Bethem′s curse. Khoma sets out to meet with the Red Witch, hoping she can help him free his father from her sister’s curse. The Red Witch can help of course, but it won’t be easy. Khoma must collect all of the Oneiric Objects of Bethem, in the process becoming a powerful wizard.
You play the first dungeon, where you will get the initial Oneiric Object, from the secret warehouse for free. Then with a quick in-app purchase you can buy the rest of the game. I really like this model of IAP; what’s not to like about a try before you buy scenario? By the time you finish the first dungeon you will have a fair idea if you want to keep playing. The purchase to continue is really easy; an avatar pops up on the road and tells you to pay to continue, you do your IAP and he thanks you and goes away, leaving you free to proceed.
The first time I opened Stories of Bethem: Full Moon it felt very familiar, my brain was quick to make the connection back to the very first game I played on my brand new Super Nintendo. No doubt you will make the connection too. From the simple, retrogressive graphics, through to the catchy yet repetitive tunes, the influence of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is unmistakable.
GuGames have made sure their game is a highly respectful homage to a game which defined a generation of gamers. There are quests within the main story line, and hidden treasures to be found if you explore. You need to get new spells or more power to get into places, so you will be re-exploring the same areas more than once throughout the game. You collect potions, ingredients and rupees… er, sorry, gems, as you run around destroying shrubs, barrels and monsters. You also move rocks and balloons to solve puzzles and proceed through barred areas.
The game is purposefully familiar, though without the feeling of being a disrespectful, copycat attempt to make money. Rather, you feel the makers of Stories of Bethem: Full Moon have taken inspiration from a game which helped ignite their passion for gaming, much like a musician influenced by music. GuGames are taking the player back to a simpler, yet no less challenging era of RPG games, and I, for one, am more than happy to jump on the train and go with them.
The dialogue is simple and feels very contrived; again, it is my feeling this is purposefully done to reference vintage RPGs like the Zelda franchise. Especially, since the Red Witch admonishes Khoma for breaking into her house and stealing. Something we all know is the cornerstone of how you make your riches in these kinds of games. The dialogue and graphics may be plain and simple, the game itself however is not.
Stories of Bethem: Full Moon offers many hours of game play; there is exploration aplenty and you will be popping into houses and talking to people, who may give you hints about the game or send you on a special quest for them. There is plenty of weaving back and forth between locations and returning for obstacles which you did not have the skills to clear the first time.
The first time Khoma visits the Red Witch he is given a bracelet which allows him to cast a wind spell. With this you can destroy bushes and barrels as well as kill the creatures you bump into along the way. The little critters can be quite annoying; a lot of them take more than one hit of your wind spell and move fast. When you move to a different zone the creatures will re-spawn when you return. The loot from killing them is quite small, so I tend to avoid them more than kill them.
Mana is limited and as you need your wind spell to clear shrubs and barrels out of the path, killing the avoidable creatures can lead to wasting your mana refill potions. Later in the game you can collect the auras from monsters for the museum, which makes killing one here and there more worth it. The only reward I have noticed is it appears in the museum for you to go and look at.
Through the game you collect unknown medallions and once you find the Green Witch you can trade them in to upgrade you bracelet and increase the strength of your spells. The Yellow Witch will give you (for gems and ingredients) a potion to refill your health and mana at once. You will also find little dudes guarding fast travel portals you can unlock to get from place to place faster.
You will find all the traits of a good RPG adventure in Stories of Bethem: Full Moon, and I’m not going to lie, at times you will be lost as to what to do next. My best advice for when you inevitably become stuck is to stop and look around, you have possibly missed a turn off somewhere and will need to backtrack a little. If that doesn’t work, try leaving the game for a while and coming back later; a fresh pair of eyes and refreshed brain could just work it out.
GuGames really should be proud of the bounty they have put on the table with their latest game, it’s fun and full of nostalgia, everything I look for in an RPG game. Oh, and of course there is a princess, deep in her castle just waiting for you to come and see her. Make sure Link, er, I mean Khoma, doesn’t keep her waiting.