I take my first hit from a bat on the second floor. The nippy little creatures glow red before they're about to strike, but I react too slowly, trying to hack the winged rat down but tapping too late. It's all downhill from there.

Wayward Souls is a game where success and failure can be measured in tiny fractions of a second. Where the difference between taking a mace to the chest and expertly sidestepping an attack is rarely more than a pixel.

And at times it's breathtakingly good. An expertly woven dark fantasy presented in the cheery pixels of a bygone age, it's bleak and warm at the same time, a wonderful mixture of nostalgia and super-tough knife-edge gameplay.

It wraps its stories into a swirling vortex of violence and lore, letting them seep through when you hit certain milestones, and always leaving you wondering what happens next and what happened before.

While you hack, slash, block, and dodge your way through the ever-changing world, you're treated to gently swaying lights, parallax whirls of forbidding clouds, clattering skeletons, and sharp-edged thorn trees that need to be hacked to pieces.

This is mobile gaming at its most solid, its most polished, and its most entertaining.

This reminds me of a night out in Stoke

The prologue of the game walks you through the simple controls. You slide a finger around the left of the screen to move and tap on the right of the screen to attack. Swiping up on the right performs a projectile attack, swiping down executes a block.

Holding a finger down charges up a powerful attack that has different properties depending on the character you're playing or the weapon you've got equipped.

Along with a variety of magical potions you'll pick up along the way, which can be accessed with a tap on the top-right of the screen, these are the tools of your trade.

The movement is responsive and clean, and it's rare that you'll blunder into trouble through any fault but your own. The offensive and defensive swipes on the other side of the screen are a little more finicky until you get the hang of them though, which can be annoying.

This is a game that demands you use everything at your disposal if you want to survive. Blocking is essential, especially in boss battles, and ranged attacks can chip an enemy's health down before it's anywhere near you.

Maybe if I stand really still they won't notice me

Once the opening of the game is done you're left to your own devices to try and scale a mythical tower. There's a variety of characters to choose from, each of which you can upgrade with the cash you earn from playing the game.

There's a sneaky rogue, a sword wielding warrior, a spell firing mage, an intrepid but slightly squishy adventurer, a plucky spellsword, and a cultist who wields blades and the dark arts.

Each of them gives you a different style of play, and each has different upgrades that you purchase with your plunder from failed attempts at scaling the tower.

Interestingly, they all have their own stories as well, and they intertwine here and there, so that you'll never know the full picture until you've completed the game with all of them.

Giant forges scattered around the levels let you augment your weaponry and armour. They're single-use though, and can only change one piece of your equipment before they die out for good.

Sure, your helmet might be bigger, but, er, oh dear...

The beautiful thing about Wayward Souls is how it sucks you into its world. A quick ten minute play can easily become an entire evening lost chipping further through its dank, skeleton-strewn dungeons and rotting forests.

It's a game that demands attention and precision, that twinkles with brilliant ideas and visual flourishes, confident enough to forge its own path through the roguelike RPG genre.

You stumble blind into dungeon after dungeon, facing almost insurmountable odds, wearing underpowered equipment, and end up dying over and over again.

And it is, in short, spectacularly good fun.

Want more? Check out our growing collection of Wayward Souls (formerly Wayward Saga) articles!