Some things are best left undiscovered, and that sentiment is certainly applicable to the artefact alluded to in the title of The Relic.

Some call it a weapon, while others see it as the means to prolong life indefinitely, but whatever this secret item is it has caused nothing but strife.

The game itself is worth leaving behind, too. The Relic is a risible top-down action title that deserves to languish in the damp and dingy catacombs that make up its levels.

Have axe, will travel

Assuming the role of a stereotypical burly Conan lookalike, you’re dropped into the lowest part of an immense labyrinth and expected to unravel the mystery of the titular relic.

You’re given snippets of vague information by the ghostly figures you meet along the way, but it matters little as the vast majority of your time is spent hammering the 'attack' button and wrestling with what must qualify as one of the most hilariously broken control schemes yet witnessed on a touchscreen device.

In short, nothing seems to work as it should. The virtual D-pad works intermittently at best: you often discover that it stops working completely in the middle of an intense battle, only to snap back into action a second later.

Uncontrollable

Equally baffling is the ability of certain enemies to make your avatar 'stick' to them like glue, despite your best efforts to move in the opposite direction.

To make matters worse, the 'attack' button is just as erratic. Tapping it unleashes a swipe of your trusty axe, but the swinging animation only plays for as long as you hold your finger down.

Yet rapid taps seem to result in quicker offence - even though your character appears to be doing a shuffle dance rather than lashing out with a deadly weapon. It’s unintentionally comical.

Mercifully, you can unlock other abilities that enable you to keep opponents at a relatively safe distance. Magical bolts automatically target nearby foes (although oddly there’s no animation to indicate that your character is firing them) and you can command a shockwave to injure entire groups of baddies.

Funky soul bother

Certain enemies drop souls, which are used to unlock new abilities and augment your existing ones. Gold is another pickup used to represent your score in lieu of a proper points system.

The Relic may play like a dog, but the visuals are actually quite endearing. The game boasts a classical look, with textures looking as if they’ve been rendered by the tip of a painter’s brush. The 3D is reasonably solid, too, and later in the game there are some large and truly intimidating enemies.

All of this is for naught, sadly. The controls are so incredibly frustrating that you find yourself cursing them every minute, and the actual gameplay is repetitive and shallow. There’s nothing here that wasn’t done a million times more effectively by the arcade game Gauntlet – and that game is over 20 years old.

The Relic may promise a captivating mystery at its core, but it’s just not worth the hassle to discover exactly what it is.