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Fastar! Review: It’s Hip to be Square

When most gamers think of Action RPGs, they think of legendary tales, epic quests, expansive environments, deep dungeons, dark caverns, towering mountains, mystic forests, colorful characters and wild creatures, mythic beasts and maniacal villains, fantastic weapons and powerful magics … Fastar! — Fight Angry Squares: The Action RPG! — has none of this. The game is an Action RPG in the sense that an action figure accessory is a legitimate firearm; it mimics the true form of the thing, but with little or no intention of living up to its inspiration.

So, let’s get a few things straight. Fastar, the latest title from John Kooistra and Cat-in-a-Box Games, is not an RPG, but an Action game that borrows some very light RPG conventions and wears them as regalia more than uniform. If you’ve come to the game expecting The Secret of Mana, then you’d best hold out a few more months until Square Enix delivers that classic to the app store. But if you’re of more flexible expectations, you will likely find Fastar to provide an entertaining, possibly addicting experience.

For most of Fastar, you will be running left-to-right battling squares of various colors and sizes. At times, you may find yourself running from right-to-left, but only if you’re running away, and that’s no good because your goal in Fastar is to complete the game as quickly as possible. Faster is not only an acronym for the full title of the game — Fight Angry Squares: The Action RPG! — but also a play on the word “faster”, which is exactly what you’ll need to be if you want to stand a chance of topping Fastar’s global leader boards.

In order to expedite your journey, you have a gigantic sword with which to swat the many squares blocking your progress. You may swing the sword rapidly by tapping the screen in madcap fashion, or may lunge for extra damage. In each of the game’s several modes you can also select a single magical spell to carry into combat, except the Battlemage mode which allows you to carry two. Spells offer various benefits, allowing you to inflict damage directly upon the villainous squares, increase your running speed, teleport to the last visited village, heal yourself and more.

Defeating squares causes them to explode in a shower of loot, with larger squares yielding greater treasure. As you traverse the realms, you will pass through villages where accumulated wealth may be spent to restore your health, or to increase your attack or defense power. If you look carefully, the village inhabitants can be seen occupying themselves in a variety of ways in the background. It’s cute.

Beyond the safety of the silly-named villages, however, SQUARES! terrorize the surrounding countryside, flattening travelers and taking their pocket change, ruining the inter-village economy. These squares must be stopped! But lest you think all squares are the same, be warned that squares’ colors are indicative of their behavior. Green squares are timid and will avoid confrontation, grey squares are sedentary but powerful, and black squares are extremely aggressive. Know thy squares to better thine chances of survival. In the more difficult game modes, the squares may also cast the same magical spells available to your character; magical squares are quite nasty indeed.

Likes

Casual Gameplay: Fastar is easy to pick up, but hard to put down. The game is an excellent choice for short bursts of action, as well as longer, more difficult sessions when you have the time. Depending upon your choice of game mode, a single game can range from five to thirty minutes in length. Quitting mid-game will save your exact progress, making it simple to resume interrupted games later on.

Tight Controls: Fastar offers several control options, and the controls are very responsive. The action is fast, and playing the game just feels right.

Custom Appearance: Hair, skin, jacket, shirt and pants may be colored according to your whim, allowing you to customize your character’s appearance. Your character design will appear with your score on the leader boards!

Variety of Game Modes: Though each mode amounts to roughly the same, Fastar mixes things up enough to keep the game interesting. The game’s normal modes — Easy, Normal and Hard — offer standard runs at varying difficulty. Specialty modes such as Profit, Battlemage, No Excuses and Showdown enact specific rules, goals or limitations on gameplay. Challenge modes like Goliath, Sudden Death, Marathon and Arena impose extreme conditions upon you to test your skills. And the twelve color modes allow you to battle a series of like-colored squares, allowing you to practice against each enemy type and to master their traits.

Humor: Fastar is a game of strange and subtle humor. Battling nothing but squares is giggle-worthy on its own, but combine that with villages’ stupid names, their inhabitants’ ridiculous activities, the childishly misspelled spell names, and other similar touches and you’ll find plenty to laugh about. None of the humor reaches out an slaps you — some oblivious players may even miss the fact that the game is incredibly funny — but silliness abounds in the world of Fastar, and most should enjoy the title’s light-heartedness.

Dislikes

Shallow: Run to the right, kill squares, improve stats, run to the right, kill squares, improve stats, run to the right, kill squares, win. The game modes do help to alleviate the repetition, but there’s really not much to Fastar. The game’s shallow depth is entirely intentional. Still, gamers expecting another Kooistra classic may be somewhat taken aback by his latest effort, which bears little resemblance to his incredible previous efforts: Blue Defense, Blue Attack and Red Conquest.

Fastar! is not what most would expect of an Action RPG, nor is it what most would expect from Kooistra having played his previous app store releases — admittedly, the game left me scratching my head at first and it took me several plays to warm to it. Set aside such expectations, however, and Fastar reveals itself to be an excellent casual action game, well worth the paltry price of admission.

Fastar! – Fight Angry Squares: The Action RPG is a game by John Kooistra and Cat-in-a-Box Games. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G. App Store Link: $0.99.