One of the limitations of mobile games is that, as downloadable products, they have fairly strict size restrictions. One way that some developers are trying to get around these limitations is by releasing games in small, bite-size chunks. Handy Games is releasing its game Ancient Ruins in six parts that will supposedly form one cohesive story, which basically consists of the usual "evil threatening the land and heroes seeking old artifacts to battle it" plot. This first part of the series, Ancient Ruins 1: The Crypt of the King, looks nice, but with its 15 minutes of gameplay, it's pretty much impossible to recommend on its own.
In this introductory installment, you play as a lone warrior who enters an old tomb in search of a legendary shield. Ancient Ruins 1: The Crypt of the King is somewhat reminiscent of an old Spectrum and C64 game called Fairlight, but it could just as well be said to resemble Diablo. The dungeonlike tomb is quite a maze. Monsters are few in number, and fighting them is easy. Keeping the fight button pressed will result in rapid thrusts that kill enemies without much effort. On top of that, there are only two kinds of adversaries: spiders and skeletons. The game is supposed to automatically adjust the difficulty depending on how the player is doing, but if that's really happening, it certainly doesn't have much of an impact on the game.
Finding your way around through the various rooms is much more challenging than combat. The tomb consists of 20 or so rooms in all. Not all of these areas are accessible at first; opening them up will require a fair amount of hunting for keys, flipping switches, and that sort of thing. There are some nice elements in the maze-navigation portion of the game, such as invisible teleporters, but none of these are particularly spectacular.
Ancient Ruins 1: The Crypt of the King looks nice, although some of the graphics are a little on the murky side, making it difficult to spot some items or the exits in a room, which in turn can result in getting lost. In addition, the hero himself could have used more-fluid animation. Sounds are few, with a short opening tune and then only a couple of sound effects in-game.
The biggest problem with Ancient Ruins 1: The Crypt of the King is its incredible brevity. Without getting lost, you can clear the whole thing in around 15 minutes. This game may be the first part in a series of six, but its lack of content makes it a poor value on its own. Even with a couple of added character-building elements to bring a touch of depth to the game, the game is still incredibly shallow.
Upon finishing the game, you receive a password that, when entered into the next entry in the series, will import your experience points. But in the second game, you play as an entirely different character, so this sort of transfer seems a little weird.
After completing the first of the Ancient Ruins games, it's difficult to judge how the series will come out as a whole. But what is clear is that the game doesn't stand up on its own very well. It might be an acceptable dungeon crawl, but its lack of length makes it very difficult to recommend.