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I’m a huge fan of Aurora Feint: The Beginning for the iPhone and iPod touch. It’s just the right blend of nerdy and casual for a mobile platform, and I could spend either hours or just a few minutes with it, depending on my schedule. And I did spend hours, which either proves that Aurora Feint is based on a solid concept, or that there is a certain type of person who will play any game that allows them to gain levels, regardless of how meaningless new levels actually are.
Given my affinity for the original, you’ll understand how excited I was as I downloaded Aurora Feint II: The Arena last Friday. The sequel to the popular puzzle RPG promised asynchronous online multiplayer play, and enhancements to the existing character and leveling system. How could you go wrong by bringing more awesome to an already awesome game? The answer: you can’t.
There are so many additions its hard to know where to start. Let’s start with basic game play. Even in the Mine, arguably the central component of the Aurora Feint world, there are noticeable improvements. The core play that makes the game so addictive is still there, but now animations are smoother, and you receive better, more visually pleasing tutorial tips throughout. Colors are brighter, and special combo animations are completely revamped. At any time during the game, you can press the arrow at the top of the screen to review your progress, go to the main menu, and return to the world map.
On the map, we find out that the area we could see in the original Aurora Feint, which is still included, is only The Town. The World is an entirely different parent map, featuring three locations: The Arena, The Town, and the Tavern. In The Arena, you can take advantage of the all new multiplayer aspects of the game. To do so, you first have to summon a Ghost, which is essentially a copy of your character that other players can do battle with. Summoning a Ghost is itself a mini-game, in which you try to maximize your stats so that your multiplayer substitute will be able to compete successfully.
Once you’ve summoned a ghost, you can do battle with other players. You’re not playing them live, but through an asynchronous battle system that pits you against their own ghost. Playing against another player’s ghost is essentially a race to burn as many resources as possible, filling up a meter faster than your opponent. I felt a real sense of urgency playing it, so even though you’re not actually playing live, it still feels sort of like you are. The always-on chat displayed at the bottom of the screen adds to the MMO feel.
There are other new features to explore, like the Academy, where you can review the game mechanics, features, and how to play. The Tower, the Smith, and the Store have also been tweaked. All the additions and refinements, and the already great Aurora Feint gameplay add up to make this feel as polished as any major developer release. Get it now in the App Store for $7.99, before it goes up to $9.99 after the holidays.