Nimble Quest Review: Knights of the Roundabout Table

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With Nimble Quest, NimbleBit had nothing to prove, but a lot to gain. Earlier releases Pocket Frogs, Tiny Tower, and Pocket Planes had cemented the indie trio as masters of time management, and a studio to watch. That their next title would be a quality release was almost a foregone conclusion. And yet, from the earliest leaks to the most recent footage, this game stuck out as the biggest departure yet from the company's tried-and-true compulsion loop. A chance to show that NimbleBit wasn't a one-genre wonder. A chance I'm very glad they took.

If video games exist in the same digital miniverse, then the loveable Bitizens of NimbleBit releases past sleep safely at night because the heroes of Nimble Quest are working ceaselessly to protect them. Part cellphone classic Snake, part SNES RPG, the title puts you in control of a growing group of medieval fighters on a quest to vanquish evil. Your heroes attack automatically as you swipe directionally to guide them through each micro stage, and enemies drop gems, power-ups and more heroes to add to your conga line. Each beaten level unlocks adorable new characters, and hard-earned gems level them up and help your party's chances of making it further. But beware: like a rogue-like, death means starting from the first level and working your way back.

About Nimble Quest's core gameplay, there's no point beating around the bush: it's absurdly, engrossingly fun. Audaciously fun, even. At first blush, the thought of "reinventing" a game as dusty as Snake seems like a fool's errand. Where others might see a lifeless husk of a concept, though, NimbleBit clearly spotted opportunity, and capitalized on it to craft a frenzied experience tailor-made for mobile devices. If their earlier titles took tapping the screen and made it the engine that powered an entire world, Nimble Quest thumbs its nose at the droves of lazy "swipe the screen" games crowding app stores today.

Here, swiping is a key that unlocks meticulously crafted twitch gameplay, as you're tasked with balancing the micro of avoiding obstacles, walls, and your own party, and the macro of defeating enemies, collecting gems, and snagging power ups. Nimble Quest is a master class in how to spawn enemies, party members, and buffs in a way that makes survival feel always within reach, while scaling difficulty just beyond the boundaries of what you're prepared to deal with. And to those who might want a virtual D-Pad option? You're crazy. The controls here are sublime in their dead simplicity. I know there's a vomit-inducing amount of marketing copy for mobile games touting "addictiveness," but trust me when I say that this is One More Try: The Game.

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