Everyone gets into at least one shoving match when they’re a kid. Thankfully, it’s extremely rare for these bursts of temper to cause any lasting damage (outside of the emotional scars incurred by being called a “stupid fat doodie head”).
Auro, an action / strategy game by Dinofarm Games, is different, however. In Auro, when you shove a monster – or when a monster shoves you – it’s for keeps. That’s because the game board is teeming with traps, and water surrounds you on all sides. Keeping your royal boots dry is not as easy as it sounds.
Auro stars the titular Auro, a spoiled young prince with a penchant for stuffing people’s lives full of dead squids. When Auro hits 13 years of age, he’s told he must engage on a quest – and no amount of hand-wringing or pleading from his milksop father can change the royal rules.
Auro is given a seemingly easy task (clear out the sewer pipe he’s clogged with dead squids), but fate takes a weird turn: He accidentally wakes up the spirit of a toy-destroying prince that’s even nastier and more spoiled than he is. Not keen to see his plastic army men crushed under some brat’s boot, Auro begins his real quest.
The action in Auro takes place on several game boards made up of hexagonal tiles. You tap to move from tile to tile. When you’re adjacent to an enemy, you can tap in their direction to “bump” them. Bumping moves an enemy back one space, ideally into a trap you set, or into the water surrounding each board.
But enemies can bump you, too. Plus, they have a score of tricks up their sleeves, like the ability to throw rocks, swap places with Auro, or send him on a short but uncontrolled flight into the soup. Luckily, Auro has an arsenal of spells to help him get the upper hand. He can freeze enemies for a time, lay down fire traps, make the floor slippery so that a single bump sends an enemy on a long trip, or even turn himself into an abominable snowman capable of tossing baddies willy-nilly.
Auro is a unique and challenging title that takes some time to master. It’s not enough to move recklessly and hope things will fall into place: You really need to combine logic and foresight to get anywhere. The game pushes you onwards with its sense of humor, great character designs, and wonderful animations.
Unfortunately, rampant bugs bring down the experience. I played on a Nexus 7 tablet and got stuck no fewer than three times in Auro’s story mode when scripted events didn’t trigger for whatever reason. Restarting and trying again (and again) was the only way to get things done. Smaller incidents occurred as well, like random freezing and the music cutting out.
Then there’s the issue of spells. Story mode serves as an extended tutorial that doles out spells in a certain order. But in the main game, you’re issued spells in a random order. As a consequence, you often find yourself beginning a game with useless spells, and are at the mercy of that poor selection until you reach another level and gain more. Enemy placement is likewise randomized, so sometimes you find yourself overwhelmed by a cluster of baddies before you can get your bearings.
Auro is based around a fantastic concept, and its visuals and writing are a lot of fun. It has the potential to rule over the strategy game genre on mobile. It just needs some grooming first.