Genre: action role playing game, 2D side scroller, brutal bosses, rats, bugs and frogs

Release Date: 2021 

Developer: Odd Bug Studio

Publisher: United Labels

If you’re an avid reader of the Mouse Guard comic book series, Tails of Iron will similarly put you in the boots of a medieval rat civilisation fantasy. Unapologetically Souls like, a notoriously difficult series of action role-playing games, can Tails of Iron “punishingly brutal combat” appeal to more casual gamers?

Story:

Once upon a time, rats prospered peacefully under the wise rule of King Rattus, first of his name. Bug juice flowed aplenty and the treacherous frogs were kept at bay… until an unfathomably large army of frogs returned to lay the Kingdom to waste. As Redgi, heir to the Rat Throne, assemble a mighty cast of companions, rebuild your kingdom to its former glory, and let the gods of war grant you revenge on the pestilent frogs!

Playability: Tall tail never loses in the telling

Tails of Iron relies on a simple yet efficient dodge, parry and strike combat system. There is no need for memorising arcane and complex key combinations such as A, X, Y and left trigger or Square, Triangle, Triangle, Circle followed by up button. A simple training tutorial against a harmless dummy will set you on the path of vengeance in just a few minutes. Enemies will perform either range attacks (dung ball, mosquito bite and all sorts of arrows) or melee attacks (including crushing jumps). Range attacks cannot be dodged and should only be parried, while melee attacks can only be dodged and not parried. Red and yellow comic style runes serve as convenient indicators of which type of attack to expect (in the next milliseconds…).  

Annoyance: Mini bosses, maxi bosses, one-size-fit-all bosses

No matter how much armour and shield you stack, finely cuisined dishes you stuff, you will pay dearly for every single mistake you make during combat. Tails of Iron is a game of patience and you will need to bide your time for opportunities to strike. In the meantime, dodge parry, jump and roll like a mostly harmless rodent. Casual gamers will quit in disgusted frustration. Though there is a plethora of conveniently located saved points throughout the game (notably right before every boss), there is no difficulty setting and the game is as hard as it gets. It’s a shame really, as few gamers will want to spend hours trying to overcome the same boss. A slightly easier mode would have made this endearing epic more accessible to casualists. Conversely, why not crank up the difficulty level a few notches for perfectionists?

Beauty: Frogs playing djembe

A lot of digital frogs are harmed during gameplay, oozing fluorescent yellow slime as they croak their last croak? It’s all quite unappetising and disgusting. Rat cadavers hanging from the ceilings, rats impaled, rats bludgeoned all demand rightful wrath as you forge your iron path through guts and gore.  At the same time, Tails of Iron is a charmingly animated hand-drawn side scroller. The game might be 2D but you never fail to notice the beautiful lighting and photography. There are all kinds of amusing animations in the background: totem weaving and djembe playing amphibians, giant mosquitos floating to distant peaceful awe-inspiring mountains and windmills. The husky narration is both tragic and full of humour. One minute, you’re drinking freshly and hilariously drawn bug milk, the next you’re hanging on to your dear life metre. This finely crafted medieval fantasy world of rodents, bugs and amphibians is packed with wonders to explore.  A no gore or less gore option would have been a welcome filter for younger players.

The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Charmingly grim ratty adventures 8/10

Tails of Iron is a wittingly told and humorously drawn tale. Part fish tale, part old wive’s tale, part fairy tale, Tails of Iron is a superbly animated epic. Certainly choke full of amphibian guts and superlatively tough bosses, Tails or Iron never loses in the telling. Gameplay relying on streamlined dodge and parry seamlessly combine with role play, crafting and questing. Now that rodent revenge has been satiated, we’ll be expecting more tall tails and look forward to our next pint of bug juice, the drink of heroes! Can we also get an easier mode for casual gamers? The option to play as a rat princess would also be nice.

Looking for more rat adventures? Try Ratropolis, a tower defence battler and city builder. You can also hack and slash your way through the Greek Pantheon in the action role playing game Hades.