For me, the real fun in Action RPGs always lay in pressing buttons — coaxing the little character sprites into hack-and-slash routines or gun tricks that grew ever more flashy with each new addition to the genre library. What I never paid attention to was the genre’s vast potential for gameplay that focuses on maneuver. I mean, yeah, I’d make my little dude or dudette step aside and chug a potion every now and then, but Action RPGs have typically boiled down to parking near an enemy and mashing on one or more attack buttons until it drops. Spotty virtual joysticks haven’t exactly lent iOS Action RPGs to much else.

Well, veteran MMO developer Lakoo isn’t going to settle for the same old gameplay formula. They’ve gone back to the drawing board and come up with Brave Code, a side-scrolling Action RPG that radically eschews the typical genre interface in favor of drag-and-drop mechanics. If the preview build is any indication, there’s a good chance genre fans won’t run for the hills, but should embrace it as a fun and refreshing innovation that only iOS could properly deliver.

No plot material was on offer in Brave Code‘s limited preview build. Judging from the werewolves, axe-wielding orcs, goblin mages, and vampires roaming its lusciously drawn environments, however, it’s apparent that a call has gone out for well-armed heroes. The player chooses exactly three and may select any combination of knights, archers and mages. After a brief tutorial, the player’s force rushes off to a world map where battlefields and shops trace a path from one environmentally themed region to the next.

Brave Code‘s ultra short tutorial instructs the player on the use of three lone virtual buttons: one beside each character’s portrait that switches the character’s auto-attack behavior on or off. Novice players might make the mistake of just flipping them all on and thinking the characters will march forth to handle things without breaking a sweat, but they’ll be rudely awakened when their cute little heroes are mowed down by axe swings and enemy fire. The second thing the tutorial shows off is the fact that the player can drag and drop any member of his or her combat force anywhere onscreen at any time — and this is the core gameplay mechanic, not siccing player characters on enemies MMO-style. In fact, seasoned players will probably prefer to leave the auto-attack off and micromanage the player character formation; they’ll attack whenever they’re placed within shooting or slicing distance of an enemy anyway.

When the player’s finger isn’t busy seizing one of his or her characters for transport, it can scroll the current battlefield all the way from its entry point to its exit teleport. This allows the player strategic options like air-dropping an archer or mage behind enemy lines to sap approaching hordes. Most of Brave Code is spent keeping the pack of heroes together and tactically swapping their order, but when it comes to dealing with projectile-hurling foes or giant bosses, the player may be tempted to bring one character into the fray and let the others hang back; pulling off dodging movements for all three simultaneously is quite a challenge when the going gets tough! Should all characters fall, the battle isn’t over so long as the player has some gold handy for revival. Poor management therefore cuts into the player’s funds for equipment upgrades between battlefields, but one may conserve cash by saying uncle with a retreat button.

In motion, the streamlined drag-and-drop mechanic adds up to way more fun than can be described on paper, and Brave Code looks as if it’s going to have that magical accessible-yet-challenging quality. Only two out of six regions were available to play in the preview build iFanzine received, so the big question hanging over this one is whether Lakoo can pull off enough tricks in enemy AI and level design to keep the fun lasting over the long haul. We look forward to the answer, and we can’t wait to present an iFanzine Verdict on this one when it’s released in the near future!