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Like a cross between the critically acclaimed PlayStation 2 hit Shadow of the Colossus and Forbidden Forest for the Commodore 64, A Ride Into the Mountains asks you to hop on your pixelated horse and shoot odd floating monsters with arrows until a distant relic regains its luster. This shooting mechanic is core to the experience, involving an Angry Birds-like slide gesture whereby you pull back and drag to aim and fire — with a bigger gesture needed for longer shots. Most enemies must be hit in a particular spot, too; otherwise arrows are ineffective. It's basic, but tough to master under duress from enemies and their projectiles.
A Ride Into the Mountains really shines in its presentation. It sports luscious, retro-style graphics that put an incredible minimalist bent on picturesque sunsets, mountain views, night skies, and forests. It’s even more distinctive in motion, thanks to fluid and elegant animations. And all of the visual splendor is supported by a superbly emotive soundtrack.
Tilting your device makes the horse run back and forth along the path, which is tricky while also touching to aim; it feels like patting your head while rubbing your stomach. And there's a brief but significant delay before the horse actually changes speed. It looks more realistic – horses don't easily swap from gallop to trot mid-stride — but proves hugely frustrating in high-pressure situations.
Thankfully, A Ride Into the Mountains is generous with its checkpoints. Losing a life sets you back only as far as your initial encounter with the current group of monsters. The challenge, for those so inclined, is to make it through the entire story without any of the abstract dark enemies getting the better of you, or to finish with a 60 percent or better accuracy rating. Repeat playthroughs benefit from all of the upgrades being handy right from the start, with fancy new bows to boot, so that these achievements are more attainable.
The bottom line. A Ride Into the Mountains overcomes a few small rough spots to offer a challenging, intriguing, evocative, and memorable adventure of horseback archery with a stellar minimalist aesthetic.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Stunning retro-minimalist art style. Solid shooting mechanics. Achievements and unlockables add replayability. Generous checkpointing.
Tilt controls are a tad too slow and unresponsive. Uneven challenge. May be too difficult for some players to complete.