Korean developer Gamevil has brought its role-playing game Advena to Android. The company’s similar Zenonia series has a solid reputation for providing retro-style action RPG thrills on both iOS and Android, but the newly-ported Advena offers a different twist on the gameplay formula while keeping the same distinctive “chibi” super-deformed pixel art aesthetic of its predecessors.
Advena is, in Gamevil’s words, a “party play action RPG.” This means that unlike Zenonia, where the player controls a single character chosen from several available classes, Advena allows players to have up to three party members fighting at once, with the player in direct control of one of them. To compensate for the added chaos that having two AI-controlled fighters brings, the environments in which players fight are much simpler than those in Zenonia. While Zenonia may be more closely compared to Nintendo’s successful Zelda series, Advena’s combat is more akin to a “brawler” such as Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. Players move from left to right in linear stages, and must defeat all enemies before moving on. There is no real exploration or puzzle solving — the emphasis is very much on combat, combat and more combat with occasional breaks to buy items from vendors.
The game is controlled via a fixed set of virtual controls, with a directional pad in the bottom-left corner of the screen and action buttons scattered around the perimeter. In the game’s default configuration, the controls block off a significant portion of on-screen action, including an important questgiver early in the game. The options menu does, however, allow players to move and adjust the transparency of the controls according to their own needs, but this doesn’t eliminate that perpetual problem of touchscreen gaming: thumbs getting in the way.
Like Zenonia, Advena carries a selection of things for players to do both on and offline. The single-player campaign sees players following a set, linear story, but as they progress they gain access to online player vs player “fight clubs” and player vs environment team-based battle arenas. It’s also possible to hire other players’ characters as “mercenary” party members and adjust their AI to be more or less aggressive with the use of items and skills in combat.
Following the pattern of many of Gamevil’s other titles, Advena is a free-to-play title with optional in-app purchases of hard currency — here called “Vena Points” — which may be used to acquire premium items from the “Network Shop.” These include restorative items, equipment bundles, soft currency packages and crafting materials. Vena Points may also be acquired for daily play and leaving a review for the app.
Although Advena is not as objectively good as Zenonia — many scenes are without music, the level design is much less interesting and the interface feels far more obtrusive than its predecessors — it’s still a solid game that is likely to enjoy some success thanks to the developer’s good reputation. However, the game does suffer from a lack of polish on the text side of things — the English translation is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and frequently sees words broken across lines. It’s not enough to spoil the experience, but it does take the sheen off an otherwise good-quality product.