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For: iPhone

Stiff as a board

Product: Archon | Developer: In-house | Publisher: React Games | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, Card/ board game, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Archon iPhone, thumbnail 1
Archon is often talked about in hushed tones of reverie having achieved the coveted status of an obscure '80s gem. Much loved by critics, hailed for its depth, challenge and spirit, Archon is a title that some have been desperate for on iPhone.

If love is blind, then clearly, nostalgia is blind, deaf, mute and braindead.

It's not that Archon is especially bad, but by today's standards the challenge, presentation and controls are all dustier than a carpenter's overalls. Guess you had to be there.

You begin with a 9x9 square board, two opposing forces populating eighteen squares on the left and right sides. You can play as either Light or Dark, each comprising a regiment of mythical creatures and characters of differing strengths and abilities.

The objective is to eradicate every member of the opposition or, alternatively, place one of your characters on each of five magical squares in order to chalk up a win. To do this, you take turns to move your characters onto squares occupied by an opposing character.

This instigates a real-time battle, where you have to outmanoeuvre your opponent in an arena, spiking them with arrows, spears, magical bolts of lightening, fire, your fists or whatever else your character has at its disposal. A somewhat muffled virtual D-pad handles movement, while pressing any part of the right side of the screen triggers an attack.

You're equipped with various spells that you can use once per match, too, with effects ranging from healing wounded characters to teleporting them across the board.

Some characters are stronger than others, making them more durable for dispatching multiple foes across several turns. As most characters can move a considerable distance on the board, the sole tactic seems to be to weaken the opposition's defences before using heavier set troops to take on the more challenging enemies.

The problem is that there just isn't a big enough difference between character abilities to make tactics a necessity. Often, with some deft combat, a garden variety Knight (of which you have several) will be just as good for taking out a more powerful enemy, such as a troll, or a griffin, as a Valkyrie or a Phoenix.

The real-time combat itself is a dirge of mindless screen jabbing. It's a shame, as had this section been re-invented as a more up-to-date, quick-fire hack 'n' slash duel, Archon wouldn't seem quite so stuck in the time that gaming happily forgot.

The same goes for the visuals. While obviously an improvement on the 1983 original, larger character models and less jerky animations would go a long way to rescuing Archon from its current, looks-like-it-was-coded-in-Uncle-Jeff's-garage motif.

The set-up itself has endured. As a concept, the mix between boardgame and real-time battling is a good one, which deserves to be dragged up to date. Sadly, Archon universally fails to do this, trotting out virtually the same game that managed little more than a modest cult status over twenty years ago.

With just a single mode (with three difficulty settings), £2.39 will leave some players feeling short-changed. If you were a fan of the original, then this will undoubtedly make you yearn for simpler times. For the rest of us, Archon is probably best forgotten.
Reviewer photo
Fraser MacInnes | 9 July 2009
Archon is only half the update on the original it needs to be. Clunky battle controls, shoddy graphics and a lack of tactical depth leave it stuck in a time warp
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