Back during the dawn of computer gaming, a small company called Interplay created a now legendary game called, The Bard’s Tale in 1985. The game had heavy roots in the tabletop Dungeons and Dragon’s game system, and featured a first person perspective maze romping adventure with a party of 6 adventurers. Unlike some of the similar adventure games of those days, this one stood out simply because it had stunning animated graphics. The game was well received back then, and it was one of the very few games I personally owned. Sadly, I never really beat it, but I spent quite a bit of time exploring the locales of this great game. The original Bard’s Tale saw two other installments before disappearing from the world.
The franchise sat dormant for many years until 2004, when InXile created a PC game by the same name with references to the old. InXile was not able to use the original source material, due to licensing, but they did managed to create a humorous fantasy adventure game. I missed this release back in 2004, but this past December, the 2004 version was given new life on the IOS platform.
I never played the 2004 PC game, so I don’t have that as a reference to the gameplay, so I can’t say how similar it is, but I’ll base my review solely on my IOS experience.
The game is a top-down action game, where you control the Bard, who isn’t your average do-gooder hero. On the contrary, he’s sort of a low-life, that manages to to get himself caught up in events that has him saving the realm. The game play mechanics are familiar and well executed on the platform. You control the bard with your standard on-screen D-Pad and perform additional actions with other on-screen buttons. Thankfully,the game is universal, so it runs fine on an iPhone, an iPad2, and on the new iPad.
The games visual’s aren’t bad, but some aspects seem dated, since I’m guessing much of the source material is unchanged from the 2004 version. So the character models aren’t completely smooth and there are environmental graphics artifacting, such as seeing seems in the background textures. All in all it’s not horrible, and it’s the game’s story presentation that makes the game worth playing.
Throughout the game, the story pokes fun at cliche’ gaming conventions, such as being tasked as the “Chosen One” to go off to save a princess and the kingdom. The dialog is witty, and you’re even given choices of being nice or snarky. The game actually requires you to be snarky in some instances, which itself is refreshing and funny. The best part about the game is all the dialog is actually voiced! I was surprised by this. Most games on the IOS platform or heck, even on the PC platform don’t bother with voice acting, and leave you read a lot of dialog. No, Bard’s Tale is completely voiced, with sung songs, and a humorous and snarky narrator to add to the games ambiance.
The game is also a full length game, I’m not done with it yet, and I’ve already clocking in 15 hours of game play, so I’m really enjoying it. The additional bonus is the game includes the Apple IIgs version of the original Bard’s Tale One and Two. It’s an additional download, but it’s included in the purchase. There’s a coming soon for the third installment, so that hopefully will appear in the future. The original game is emulated quite well, and even includes the original dialog asking you which floppy drive to use. I tried playing a little to reacquaint myself with the original and I had almost forgotten how brutal these old games were. I spent more time making my party than actually using them, since right out the door I was assaulted and of course my main party member “Dower” was killed instantly. It’s also amazing to compare how the original game stacks up to today’s games; it really puts thing in perspective.
The last thing I want to mention is the game does offer in-app purchases for bonus material and support items. I’ve not made any additional purchases, since I’ve not found the need to yet, and the game doesn’t nag you to make these purchases.
It’s good to see older PC games find new life on the IOS platform, it’s a sure sign that Apple’s platform is good and healthy. Other similar games, such as Balder’s Gate will be making appearances in the coming months and I look forward to that one also. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a not-so-traditional humorous action adventure game, than look no further. The game’s $5.99 price tag is well worth it, if not for the 2004 version, then at least for the fun jaunt down memory lane with the original versions.