I was an avid Archon player on the apple ][e and it feels very much like the same game (THAT’S A REALLY REALLY GOOD THING!).
The best way to describe this game is Chess-meets-Checkers-meets-Gladiator. You move your various pieces in a chess-like manner on the “Strategy board”, but instead of immediately capturing a square, you need to actually face off with your opponent (in the “Combat Arena”) and fight to the death to win the square.
The squares on the Strategy board keep changing from light to dark (and vice-versa) which gives the advantage to either the black or white playing piece. The various playing pieces have different weapons. This weapon is either close-combat (like a sword or club), or fires projectile (like spikes or fireballs).
Each team also has a Spell Caster who can summon a variety of spells that can be used throughout the game (only while this piece is still alive). Each spell can only be used once per game, and include things live reviving a dead playing piece, or switching the flow of time from light to dark to dark to light, etc.
You have a virtual D-pad that you use to move your player around the Strategy Board, or you can just touch any square on the game board. In the combat arena, you also use the d-pad to move, but you press anywhere on the right-half of the screen to fire/swing your weapon. The controls, while not exactly the same, feel close enough to the old keyboard controls of the apple ][e version.
Alternatively, you have the option of using the accelerometer (built into the iPod/iPhone) to move your character in the Combat Arena, but I found that to be far too imprecise. I should note that sometimes I did find the firing/swinging (while moving) to be a little unresponsive/inaccurate. This is an issue which is currently being addressed by the developer.
Right now, only a single-player vs. CPU mode is available, but apparently a multiplayer mode is in the works. Multiplayer is the one thing that is really missing from this game. There are 3-levels of computer AI: ‘novice’ (which you might as well be playing against nobody), ‘average’, and ‘adept’. Multiplayer over wi-fi (both against a random and specified player) would be EPIC and definitely add huge value to the game!
The graphics are decent. A bit of an upgrade from the old apple ][e game, especially in the backgrounds of the Combat Arena. Although, I like that React! tried to stay true to the original look/feel of the game with the graphics and didn’t go averboard trying to max them out.
There is a new custom music soundtrack, which is okay, nothing real great but no so annoying that you would turn the music volume all the way down. There are good sound effects for the swords/projectile weapons, but I found myself missing the old clomp clomp sound of the ogre’s footsteps when he walked.
I can definitely see myself logging a fair amount of time on this game. Though I’m not certain how much of a role nostalgia plays in that. I think this game would offer a lot more replay value if you were able to play against either a buddy or a stranger online.
Final Verdict [4/5]
This game was recently on sale for only $1.99 and at that price it would have been really easy to recommend to anyone (even without the muliplayer mode). Now that its back up to $3.99 I still recommend it as a fun single-player game, but with slight reservations until multiplayer support is actually added. I should note, that it looks the the developers are actively making tweaks and fixes to improve/fix some gameplay issues (including adding a new difficulty level ‘INSANE’). So hopefully that multiplayer support will become a reality soon.
Archon is a great stroll down memory lane for me and captures the essence of the game that I loved so much as a kid. So, if you were also a big fan of the original game on the apple ][e (or some other platform) then I’d definitely recommend that you pick it up (as is) for the full $3.99 price.
The addition of a solid multiplayer system via wifi, would probably push my review to at least a 4.5.