Rarely do I come across a mobile game which goes in depth to such extent like Runemals. Built by JanduSoft, Runemals is a turn-based strategy game which combines colour matching mini-games to Pokemon-style games, and tops it off with a large world ready to be explored.
It offers players countless hours of playtime, and the isometric combat element ensures the player never ends up in the same place twice. The graphics seem hand-drawn and digitally edited, and the lack of animation and voiceovers gives the game a comic-book feel.
Overall, I’d say Runemals is a well-built, huge mobile game which will give other developers a run for their money, and Pokemon-loving players tons of fun.
First things first – the gameplay. Runemals combines Pokemon-style turn-based fights and colour matching mini-games. The player follows the story of a young boy who suddenly becomes an owner of a Runemal (a fighting animal) and who wants to become one of the greats. He then goes through a series of fights, which give his fighters experience and coins to help him progress further. Fighting is where the game combines colour-matching. Before each move, a mini-game is activated, which requires the player to match three (or more) jewels of the same colour on a board. The more colours he matches, more energy he has for his next turn.
Although this is an interesting approach and differs from the well-established mana/energy/hitpoint paradigm, it feels extremely slow. You have ten seconds to play the mini-game, and then you get to hit your opponent once. Once his move is finished, it’s back to the mini-game. Rinse and repeat until someone wins.
The fights are enriched with special moves, both offensive and defensive, as well as pots and elixirs you can buy with the in-game currency. As the player progresses, he will create a larger collection of Runemals capable of fighting multiple enemies. He will also have the option of choosing the best Runemal for each fight.
I like how the in-game economy was implemented, however I feel it is a bit too complicated. There are two types of currencies you can find in the game – gold coins and purple crystals. Gold coins can be acquired by trading for crystals, while crystals can be bought for real money. Gold can then be traded for pots and elixirs, while crystals can also be used at The Fountain, for extra boosts. Why not just go for gold, or crystals for everything? I get the feeling it would simplify the gamers’ lives.
In-game currency aside, the game is also monetized through pop-up ads and video ads which sometimes appear after a fight. I don’t find it a particular problem as the game is very slow and turn-based, and having a pop-up every once in a while is something I’m willing to accept for a free-to-play game of this magnitude.
Visually, I have to say the game is very beautiful. All the characters, maps and details seem to be hand-drawn (I’m not sure, they could have been digitally created too), and the accompanying audio background is slow and quite soothing.
However, the game lacks animations and voiceovers. Some would see it as a drawback, but honestly, I don’t. Having an almost static game with no voiceovers forces the player to put his imagination into overdrive, creating an experience unique to him. In a time where everything is being served to the player, where he need only take up the controller and let the game do the rest, actually needing to use your brain for any function is a plus. I liked it, and imagined what the main protagonist would sound like, and how each of the Runemals would actually behave in combat.
I would, though, use a bit more vivid set of colours.
Rich gaming experience
Overall, I’d give this game a solid 4/5. It has extreme depth, with lots of Runemals to capture, a huge map to explore and many items to purchase. It has a nice backstory, great graphics and sweet design. With lots of different animals with various skills and abilities, each fight can be different and entertaining. However, I can’t give it a 5/5 as it has its flaws.
The biggest one would be the game’s speed – it was designed to be slow and it kills it for me. Having to play the colour-matching mini-game after each move gets annoying quite fast. I couldn’t find the enemy’s hitpoint bar anywhere and was completely in the dark how long I had to fight to win. This also meant I couldn’t estimate when to attack and when to defend with my minions. Even though these flaws seem minimal, they’re fundamental to the game. In any case, if you’re not one for speed and don’t mind taking your time with a game, don’t hesitate to give Runemals a try, you’ll love it.