OK, let’s make this quick. I have to get back to the Greatest Rivalry of Our Time with Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland. He posted about One Tap Quest on Twitter, inviting mortal humans like myself to have a go at his high score. I beat it handily, and then he utterly trounced mine using some sort of ancient black sorcery. I will not rest until I’ve figured out how. Oh yeah, One Tap Quest is a game where you align a little medieval adventure man’s forward trajectory and watch as he hacks and slashes his way to either strength and glory or gruesome death by poorly drawn snake. It’s an entire fantasy RPG in a single click, basically, and I HATE IT. By which I mean it’s pretty neat and I can’t stop playing it please send help.
There’s actually a lot more to the game than you might think, though I will confess that a fair amount of it is luck. Thing is, that’s where a lot of the appeal lies. As in a roguelike-like, you might encounter horrible failure once second and utterly intoxicating victory the next.
One Tap Quest really is played in seconds. You click once, your ant man scuttles into action, and anywhere between five and 45 seconds later, the deed is done. As your character progresses through the area, he slays monsters, levels up,and – if you aim him well – comes into contact with all sorts of handy pixelated items. Swords and shields give you an insta-level, blue scrolls teleport you back a bit, and beer splits you into a party of three. Those sorts of things.
The goal, then, is to become sufficiently powerful to make it past various tiers of monsters. The game randomizes them to a degree, but they’re basically in sequential order. So sure, you might be able to make it all the way to the castle by sneakily skirting the level’s edges, but a dragon or what I believe to be either a minotaur or an evil loaf of bread will slaughter you with ease upon arrival. Leaping backwards is often beneficial, as it lets you take out more monsters and gain more experience.
It’s so perfectly minimal that it’s almost absurd, and everything feels just right. The weight of each itsy bitsy impact, each nanosecond of triumph. I’ve been sitting here clicking away for at least an hour-and-a-half, trying to get just the right chains of items to appear – the yellow brick/beer roads to my destiny. I’ve started gaming the system, which I think is what you’re supposed to do, but it does take away from some of the instant satisfaction the game otherwise provides.
The more XP you enter the final wizard brawl with, the higher your overall score when you beat the game. And so you see my dilemma. Kyle’s high score is 20700. Mine is 19000. I caaaaaaaan’t do any better, but I also caaaaaan’t stop trying. So I leave it to you, and I offer this piece of haggard, time-worn wisdom: early beer, late explosive scroll. If a map layout can’t guarantee you that, you’ve already lost.