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NimbleBit made its name on slower-paced simulations like Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, which charmed with their retro-leaning pixel aesthetics and impressed with surprisingly friendly free-to-play models. Nimble Quest, the studio's perfectly titled latest release, maintains those latter qualities but embodies a different and very active kind of spirit. The result is a mash-up of Snake and retro role-playing games that's uniquely enjoyable and ideal for one-handed amusement.
Built on the back of Snake – the classic navigational game best known for appearing on old-school cell phones – Nimble Quest sends your fantasy hero running through open environments filled with skeletal warriors, poisonous spiders, and other foes. Simple swipes turn your self-propelled lead, which is necessary to avoid running into walls and enemies, while your character will automatically assault any threat it approaches with melee or projectile attacks. As you dominate all comers, you'll occasionally uncover new allies, which will follow your leader and thus create the familiar snake-like formation that must wind around enemies and obstacles to survive.
Staying alive amidst the building chaos of each stage means constantly turning, picking up power-ups that enhance attack frequency or temporarily freeze opponents, and keeping your party alive and as sizable as possible. And taking a cue from roguelike dungeon crawlers, losing your entire squad ends your game and sends you back to the first level – that is, unless you opt to continue via coins, which are found sparingly in action or otherwise purchased in bundles with real money. Nimble Quest's pixel style varies from that seen in the studio's previous hits, but is no less effective here, plus the swoon-worthy music sounds like it was pulled directly from a Super Nintendo-era role-playing classic.
Much as we dig the odd twist on a simple favorite and the stellar presentation, particularly for a free-to-play title, Nimble Quest comes up just short in holding our attention for the long haul. No doubt, we felt the urge to jump back in time and again to push further and further through the stages, and spent a few dollars on coins and crystals to generate continues and character upgrades. But the available upgrades are curiously few and aren't dramatically helpful; as prohibitively expensive as the third-tier character level update is to purchase with gems (so much so that those not spending money aren't likely to ever earn it), the tangible benefit on the battlefield seems minor. We wanted ample reason to keep plugging along with these characters, but found something more akin to surface-level window dressing in that department – though we'd love to see more focus put on this aspect in an update.
The bottom line. With the look of a classic RPG and the heart of an arcade favorite, Nimble Quest is an engaging free-to-play curio that's a hair less gripping than either influence might suggest.
iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone running iOS 5.0 or later
Great mash-up concept. Excellent presentation throughout. Plenty to enjoy without needing to spend cash.
Character leveling isn't hugely effective, with the highest-tier upgrades hardly worth the huge expense.