When you consider the dynamics of the joust, it's a wonder anyone ever survived.
Not only were you trying to stay on a galloping horse in full armour, but you had to control said mount with your legs while waggling around an enormous pointy stick, and looking for your opponent through your visor's tiny slit.
Maybe that's why Alawar's first made-for mobile game Shake Spears!, developed by Wake Up Studios, treats the mediaeval activity as something of a rock-paper-scissors lottery.Horse to horse
Displayed on a colourful cartoon 2D backdrop, each bout starts on the left side of the screen. As you and your opponent charge towards each other on your comical-looking horses, you aim your lance by sliding up and down on the right side of the screen, positioning your shield on the left (although this is rarely required).
You'll want to ensure your opponent's lance hits your shield, while your point clips them higher - on the helmet or breastplate to score maximum damage. The round keeps going until someone's health has been reduced to zero, gaining you gold if you're the winner. You use this to level-up your knight's armour, lance, and health.Abracadabra
So far, so standard, but what makes Shake Spears! come alive - aside from its excellent presentation and art style - are the magical power-ups.
Split into four sections - Knight, Mechanic, Warlock, and Alchemist - these offensive and defensive spells can be purchased with the gold you earn by winning jousts.
Up to eight of the 16 can be selected before each bout. They're displayed across the bottom of the screen, with you tapping on them as the joust begins to trigger their actions.
Initially, the cheapest ones are useful rather than exotic - speed boost, repair armour, steal a spell, explosive lance, expand shield. But the further you get into the game, the more powerful they become.
Examples include stunning your opponent, destroying his lance, replaying that round of the bout, become a ghost, and invulnerability.Trumps and counters
And it's this that develops the gameplay into something much more subtle and sophisticated, particularly as each enemy you face is either a Knight, a Mechanic, a Warlock, or an Alchemist, each with access to his own particular set of skills.
You meet them all as you fight your way across a Campaign map, which is broken down into four regions, each consisting of five castles, and loosely characterised by an enemy type. To conquer each castle, you'll have to successfully win five bouts in a row, with your health and power ups being reset at the start of each bout.
But the real test of the game are the four end of region bosses, as you have to understand their power-ups and how the AI likes to use them.
Also, despite being a paid game, Shake Spears! allows you to spend real cash on in-game gold, meaning the bosses can be difficult to dispatch. Still, apart from the final Dark Citadel boss, you shouldn't have too much trouble unseating them, even if you have to go around a couple of times to increase your gold to level-up or buy a better spell.
Of course, the strategy you'll have to deploy hardly ranks with games such as Civilization, but nevertheless Shake Spears! appeals thanks to its easy pick-up-and-playability, while also encouraging you to have another go, whether to earn some more gold or conquer another castle. It's time to saddle up.