This article was originally published on the defunct Ancient World Magazine website and is now re-published here.
There are a lot of really good, smaller games available for mobile devices. Among my favourite indie developers for smartphones is Arnold Rauers (TiNYTOUCHTALES). If you’ve got a smartphone, you might already own one or two of his games, as they’ve generally been well received.
Rauers’s first release was Card Crawl, a card-based take on the classic dungeon crawl. Miracle Merchant has a vaguely Dungeons & Dragons-inspired setting, with you working as a potion mixer, throwing ingredients together for your clients. Card Thief is an excellent card-based take on the stealth game genre. All three of these games are great, though of these three, Crawl and Thief are probably my favourites.
The goddess of war
Rauers also released a game inspired by Greek mythology, called Enyo. Like his other releases, it has a short but rewarding gameplay loop. You control Enyo, the goddess of war. She is often conflated with Eris, the goddes of strife; in mythology, she’s essentially the female counterpart to Ares.
In the game, your goal as Enyo is to descend ten levels of an underground dungeon. Each level is divided into 10 by 10 tiles, for 100 spaces in total, though some spaces are occupied by obstacles (walls) or hazards (spikes, lava pits). Some tiles have a yellow arrow that affects the direction in which enemies will move when manipulated by Enyo. In order to progress to the next level, you have to clear out all of the enemies.
The game is turn-based: you make a move with Enyo, after which all of the enemies move, too. There is a lot of variety here as regards the enemies. The Wardog is equipped with a bronze helmet and a spear; he’ll try to get close to Enyo to stab her. The Centaur is equipped with a bow and can shoot Enyo from a distance (only orthogonally). The Minotaur will ram Enyo by running towards her when she’s in his line of sight. The Gator throws bombs. (Of course, alligators are reptiles found only in the New World; this should have been a crocodile, really.) And so forth. A few enemies are inspired by classic videogames (e.g. Frogger and the barrel-hurling Monkey.)
Enyo has four different moves/attacks available. Shield dash is her most basic move: you can use this to position Enyo elsewhere on the board. You can also use it to knock enemies away, or to push them into a lava pit or against spikes. Most enemies die when pushed into a hazard; some, like the flying Medusa, are unharmed by e.g. lava pits, and others, like shield-bearing Cyclops, cannot be pushed.
Enyo also possesses a hook. She can throw the hook at rings on walls to throw herself across the board. But she can also use it to drag an enemy into a lava pit, or to throw another enemy a few tiles behind herself (preferably into a hazard of some sort). The Tortuga is an enemy that cannot attack, but does have a ring on its shell; if Enyo pulls herself towards him she will create a stun effect on impact, which will prevent adjacent enemies from moving for a turn.
The goddess of war can also throw her shield, which can push an enemy into a hazard or stun it. Her stun leap can be used to traverse a small area of the board; upon landing, the impact will stun adjacent enemies. Be careful, though, if you land on a cracked tile, damaged by e.g. a bomb thrown by a Gator, you might sink into a newly-formed lava pit. Leap also needs to recharge, so you cannot stun leap twice in a row.
The old adage of “easy to learn, hard to master” applies to Enyo. I have yet to descend past level 6 in the dungeon. As you would expect, things become progressively harder the deeper you go, with more enemies (and more difficult ones) being introduced as you progress. Fortunately, Enyo starts each new game with three hearts’ worth of health, and if you die the first time, you’ll receive “Chronos’ blessing”, allowing you to retry the level without losing your progress.
The game is billed as a “roguelike”, which is a bit silly: it’s very much a strategy/puzzle hybrid, with randomly generated levels. The graphics are great; I love the art (created by Winnie Song), which seems inspired by black-figure pottery, especially the black silhouettes of the bodies of both Enyo and most of the monsters. The music, on the other hand, is fairly generic and forgettable, with the same track played over and over. The tune that plays during the actual game reminds me of something from the Microsoft-published strategy game Age of Mythology.
Aside from the “normal” mode of play, where you try to essentially solve ten randomly generated puzzles in a row, there’s also an “expert” mode (higher difficulty), a “daily” game (that you can only play once every 24 hours), and “Odyssee” mode.
The latter is perhaps the most interesting to play after normal: in order to descend you have to reach a particular score. This starts at 1 skull, but becomes progressively harder to reach. These levels also feature a ridiculous amount of enemies, making them quite challenging.
In short, Enyo is a highly enjoyable way to waste some time. It looks great, it’s easy to learn, and it offers a lot of variety thanks to the randomly-generated levels and the large variety in enemy types. You won’t learn much about actual Greek mythology, but I enjoyed the fact that a relatively little known goddess has been put in the limelight.
If you own a mobile device that runs iOS or Android, you should check it out. Unlike Rauers’s other games, it’s available for free, with a single in-app purchase available to unlock the game and thereby get rid of the ads.