The Beggar's Ride
Typically when a mortal person gets whisked away to save a magical land in peril, you're dealing with your stereotypical heroic, handsome and/or beautiful, youthful protagonist type. But in Bad Seed's stunning action platforming adventure The Beggar's Ride for iOS, it's actually an old homeless man who finds the portal to another world, and however unlikely a savior he may seem, he'll still have to step up to the task. You'll guide him through a beautiful realm filled with strange creatures, mystical masks that bestow godlike powers, and of course, puzzles aplenty. Despite some frustrating controls, The Beggar's Ride is still a lovely, charming, and engrossing adventure with hours of content and secrets to find.
The Beggar's Ride has two modes of control... you can tap anywhere onscreen to move our hero to that location, tapping above him to jump, or you can use a virtual joystick to move and tap on the right side of the screen to jump instead. While it's possible to take a nasty tumble, get squashed, poked, or encounter any other number of hazards, you'll be transported back to the last glowing blue portal you activated if you get hit. But because anyone can run and jump, you'll need some semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic powers to save the world here. You'll find different masks that, when put on by pressing and holding on our hero, allow him to use abilities that manipulate the environment. The first mask allows you to create rain by dragging rain clouds together, for instance, while another can make "earthquakes" by tilting the screen with your fingers to roll things around. It's possible our bearded hero is Lara Croft's great grandfather, since as he clambers around these mysterious ruins, he'll also find a lot of puzzles he'll need to figure out how to solve. The masks may be used to activate ancient rusted mechanisms, grow plants to reach new heights, or any other number of obstacles you'll need to think your way through. Just keep your eyes open for secret areas and collectibles!... are... are his eyes open? Are you even awake old man?!
There's a lot about The Beggar's Ride that feels like a love letter to classic console platforming adventures, and playing it made me want to sink down into my coziest spot on a Saturday morning and ignore the world for a few hours. The design is vibrant, full of personality and beautiful scenery, with a simple but well told story to carry you through. It may take you a while to get used to the way the powers the masks unlock work... rain doesn't last forever, for example, and neither does the plants it grows, but you'll have to master the timing for both yourself. As the game opens up, however, the sprawling areas have some some fairly tricky challenges. The physics is... mostly reliable, if a little demanding when it comes to time, and it allows for some remarkably intricate mechanisms to play with for puzzles. The downside? No matter what control scheme you use, neither feels tight enough for the more demanding platforming sections, and its kludgy movement is going to be a turnoff for some players. It feels like it could have dropped the action bits to focus more on the puzzles and been stronger for it, in lieu of faster, more responsive movement, and players who just want to take in the story and world while enjoying the puzzles may find the action sequences a little too frustrating. If you're willing to forgive that, however, and can approach it with patience, The Beggar's Ride is still one seriously impressive little game. The core message behind it, as you begin to learn about the god of this world and how his feelings and motives intersect with those of the beggar, are familiar but poignant and well told, while the world manages to feel both crumbling and teeming with potential. The Beggar's Ride is an unexpected gem, as creative as it is lovely, and a worthy addition to any iOS library.