"Unless you feel like wasting a weekend doing legwork for random NPCs, it's probably best to find a better investment for the three dollars the game would've cost you."
When one of the staffers asked who wanted to review Soul Tamer Kiki, nobody responded. Not really knowing the danger of playing random iOS games from strange developers, I volunteered, and now I wonder if the rest of the staff isn't currently having a good laugh at my expense. My time with Kiki wasn't all bad, but, by the end, I wanted all the time I spent playing this game back.
Soul Tamer Kiki stars the eponymous Kiki, whose parents disappeared while fighting an evil force. Years later, Kiki literally dreams of defeating the evil villain and saving the world, when she's given a rude awakening by the village elder. She's then forced to do legwork for a number of her hometown's inhabitants, after which she sets out on a quest to realize her destiny.
The graphics in Soul Tamer Kiki are very pleasant and colorful. The backgrounds are very detailed, and the spritework is excellent. It makes for a very relaxed and pleasant graphical style that never really gets dull, which can't be said about many iOS games. The character designs, however, are horrible; Minoraxis should get a new character designer/artist on the double, because I found myself skipping through dialogue merely to avoid seeing the horrid character artwork. The music and sound effects are both rather generic. While the music is nothing terrible, it's more akin to inoffensive elevator music than actual game music.
Kiki has a wide variety of tools at her disposal, being able to wield three different weapon types and equip dozens of different armor and accessories. Kiki can also take advantage of traps, which are somewhat like the game's magic, with each trap providing a unique function; they can be placed on the ground to trigger various effects when enemies are lured onto them, from poison to direct damage to other harmful effects. All of these items can be synthesized with the spoils Kiki obtains after defeating her enemies. This, combined with the sim-like aspects that can be unlocked later in the game, provide a robust and rewarding item creation system that encourages exploration and experimentation with the game's myriad items.
Or at least, it would, if only the rest of the game provided such variety. Soul Tamer Kiki is an action RPG that plays somewhat like Secret of Mana. Unfortunately, unlike Secret of Mana, Soul Tamer Kiki is devoid of challenge and depth in its battle system. Traps are close to worthless in the game, as the player can just rapid fire Kiki's normal attacks, which kill every enemy in the game. In the time taken for a player to set down a trap and lure an enemy in, Kiki's normal attacks would have already decimated the opposition. It doesn't help that enemies make a direct beeline towards Kiki whenever she's in their general vicinity. Standing on top of a cliff while attacking the enemies below is a cheap, but efficient way to progress; enemies can't reach Kiki, but her attacks can hit the enemies. Skills – if they can be called that – are merely modifiers to give Kiki more damage potential, and little else.
Boring and repetitive combat would be fine if there was an incentive to constantly throw Kiki at hordes of bloodthirsty creatures, but sadly the game fails in that regard, as well. Almost every quest Kiki is required to complete is a fetch quest of some sort. Each time a new part of the story or world is reached, it follows that there is a horde of faceless NPCs to ask Kiki to get an ore or animal hide or log of some sort; otherwise the story cannot progress. When the game begins, Kiki is forced to do legwork for her fellow villagers; imagine doing that over the course of ten to fifteen hours, with neither rest nor respite. That's Soul Tamer Kiki.
By far biggest problem with Soul Tamer Kiki lies in the controls. I've been a staunch critic of virtual gamepads and buttons for quite some time now, and after playing Soul Tamer Kiki, I've had a new appreciation for ones found in other iOS games like Secret of Mana. Soul Tamer Kiki's controls are terrible; the virtual joystick is particularly bad since it often registers poorly, I have to release and press it again if I wish to change directions, and there's no possibility of walking diagonally. There's no option to switch to purely touch-based controls, which is completely unacceptable for an iOS game.
There are a few things that Soul Tamer Kiki does well: the item creation system and customization options for Kiki are definite points in the game's favor. It's unfortunate, then, that these deeper gameplay elements are bogged down by a boring combat system, a ridiculous amount of fetch quests, and a completely broken control scheme. The game's asking price isn't unreasonable, but unless you feel like wasting a weekend doing legwork for random NPCs, it's probably best to find a better investment for the three dollars the game would've cost you.