New App A Day: Ash

If you grew up on the likes of Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana, then you might want to take a look at Ash, a 16-bit style RPG that just hit the App Store.

We’ve only spent an hour with it so far, but the storyline already has us hooked. You control Nick and Damien, two mercenaries trying to stay off the radar of the crumbling Empire. Your first job is to investigate a mystery involving the mines that fuel the economy of a town you’re passing through. We won’t give any spoilers, but as you investigate you uncover some intriguing hints that Nick and Damien might not be exactly what they seem. After completing the first quest, we’re very eager to discover what happens next.

Aside from the stand-out storyline, Ash is a typical Eastern RPG. You’ll navigate menus to deal with an inventory of weapons, items, and armor. You’ll pick loot out of a seemingly endless supply of barrels scattered around the world. You’ll level up your party by engaging in random turn-based battles (fun, fun, fun!).

But Ash also has a number of neat little touches that tailor it for gaming on the go. You can save anywhere. Your characters’ stats and skills are upgraded automatically as you level up, which streamlines things considerably. And if you miss something in the dialogue, you can tap the back button to rewind the conversation.

However, the rest of Ash is a mixed bag. The most glaring problem is that there’s no d-pad, so you have to touch the screen in the direction you want your character to move. This means that you’ll be putting your fingers all over the place, and your hands block your view much of the time. We wish there was at least an option to use a d-pad.

Also, there’s no map, so when you’re spelunking through one of the multi-leveled dungeons, you’re on your own to figure out where you’ve been and where you need to go. And the random battles happen far more frequently than necessary, especially considering the limited enemy types we’ve encountered over and over again so far.

So if you love a good story and can forgive some fairly major faults, pick this one up. If you’re still not sure, stay tuned. We’ll report back with our full review once we’ve had a chance to finish the game.