The History of Mage Gauntlet
Although developer Rocketcat games first hit the radar of mobile players with its Hook Champ trilogy of swinging action games, the developer originally had other ambitions in mind. The company was formed in 2009 when three online friends who had little prior experience in game development decided on a whim to give it a try. The trio were fans of first-person shooters in particular, but felt the genre had stagnated over the years. At least initially, their plan was to do something about that. The first game the team designed was called Rocketcat, but it ended up not coming together properly and was scrapped. At the very least, they were able to salvage a company name and mascot from the project.
The next project went a little smoother. Hook Champ was a side-scrolling action game that centered its core mechanics around swinging through caves and ruins. The game was released in October 2009 and found a steady following among mobile gaming fans. Clearly big believers in striking while the iron was hot, the Rocketcat team put out two sequels in the year that followed: Super QuickHook and Hook Worlds. The success of this trio of releases gave Rocketcat the funds and fame needed to go full-time into game development. With more time and resources available, the three friends opted to take on a considerably more ambitious project.
Mage Gauntlet was originally conceived as a top-down, twin-stick shooter with a fantasy setting. The story and characters were established early on and ended up changing little in the final release, but the gameplay was quite different. Levels were more arena-based, and you were meant to constantly be firing off magic spells. You would have had a basic magic shot that was supplemented by a steady stream of spell pick-ups. At any time, you could hit a button to detonate your current spell, dealing damage over a wide area and swapping you over to the next spell you had in stock.
After that idea was scrapped, the idea of making it a dungeon dive with randomly-generated floors was kicked around. Rocketcat would eventually revisit that idea in Wayward Souls, but decided to go another way with Mage Gauntlet. Soon enough, the team settled on a plan to make a stage-based action-adventure game that paid homage to some of their favorite 16-bit classics, and the Mage Gauntlet we know today was born. The game was released in October of 2011 and received considerable critical acclaim, earning perfect scores from a number of publications and an overall high MetaCritic rating. It was selected as a runner-up for TouchArcade’s 2011 Game of the Year award and was a favorite in virtually every community that discussed mobile gaming.
Mage Gauntlet received a number of updates after its release, but the only changes made to the game itself were to smooth out its rather steep difficulty curve. Other updates were largely dedicated to keeping the game compatible with the ever-changing iOS landscape, a task that eventually became too difficult to keep up with for the small developer. The game fell into disrepair when 32-bit compatibility was removed from iOS until it made its comeback in 2019 as part of the GameClub line-up.