Thursday 7 September 2006
If painting-by-numbers ever ended up as an Xbox 360 game, this Jap-developed RPG is what it would look like. Enchanted Arms is the most basic, hand-holding piece of entertainment we've seen in a long time... and yet, somehow, it works. In fact - and to our surprise - it's actually damn fun.
The world of Enchanted Arms looks like this: bright, eye-gouging colour; extravagant characters that wear camp clothes; slightly crap soap opera-style stylings that wouldn't look out of place in Beverly Hills 90210; and the opportunity to glide through the game without much in the way of challenge or real thought for what you're doing.
Certainly, it's no Oblivion. But then you knew that. And the characters and comedy help balance off against lack of depth and longevity. The story is, of course, your generic RPG tale; rebel teenager Atsuma accidentally gets involved in starting an apocalypse by setting free an ancient evil golem called the Queen of Ice, and only him, his enchanted arm and his wannabe-hero friends can stop it.
But the addition of gay characters like Makoto (who's so camp he has on-site toilet facilities) and amusing dialogue and in-jokes between the good guys, does give it a certain something.
The developer has even clicked on small details that might irritate some RPG fans, like waiting for what seems like hours to find the next save point, and removed them. You can save at almost any point in-game except mid-battle, and also, if you die in a battle, you don't have to go back to the last save - you can now just press 'Retry'!
The flipside of this, however, is obvious. The game is almost cretinously easy. Almost. Well travelled RPG-ers will be cracking out the cigars about three minutes in, sticking their feet up and cruising through the game at record speed. Even half-arsed genre fans will find little in the way of challenge here, particularly as the game's double whammy is that it's more linear than a motorway.
A potential additional killer is the battles; they look great and move like a greased weasel, but they're about as challenging as Wayne Rooney's autobiography. It's only later on that things start to get a little beefier, but by then you've all-but-mastered the game.