Golvellius – The Valley of Doom for iPhone Review


Over the past few months I have highlighted the anticipated release (here and here) of the Sega Master System classic Golvellius for the iPhone. A couple of weeks ago the game finally released, and the folks at DotEmu were kind enough to provide a promotional code for the App Store, so I’ve been enjoying playing it since.

For me there are two questions: does it hold up as a standalone gaming experience for folks like me who never played before, and does it work as fan service for fans who played it two decades ago? Read on and find out!

The Hype:
DotEmu, publisher specialized in bringing retro games to life, is proud to announce the launch of the famous late 80’s adventure title Golvellius: Valley of Doom. The game is available for download worldwide on the Apple Appstore.

First developed in 1987 by Compile on MSX, Golvellius has then been said as the Master System answer to Legend of Zelda. Providing an improved user interface and gameplay tweaks, the iPhone version will delight both fans and newcomers.

The evil Golvellius has kidnapped the Princess Rena and is spreading terror in the valley. As the brave knight Kelesis, you must get her back! Golvellius has sent seven of his fiercest demons hidden in caves to stop you. Some caves can be opened by defeating the beasts of the valley and some other ones will appear when you get certain objects in your inventory. Don’t forget to buy crystals upon defeating each demon. For in some caves you will find fairies, sorceress and the wise women who will help you by selling objects to improve your strength, bibles to increase your max amount of gold and life potions.

Now get in there and save the Princess! Can’t you hear her calling for help?

* Get the true feeling of a retro game on your iPhone
* Huge gaming area and many hidden passages to discover
* Unique gameplay alternating caves, dungeons, and maps
* Improved playability for the iPhone
* Smart saving/loading system
* High quality music from the 80’s


The Reality:

Golvellius was the Sega Master System’s answer to The Legend of Zelda. That Golvellius isn’t a household name isn’t a reflection on the quality of the game, but rather the dominance of the NES and the massive success of the Zelda franchise through the years. The original game got respectable reviews, but has largely been lost to the ravages of time in the fast-moving game industry. Everything I read about the game leading up to release screamed ‘retro’, which I really liked!

The game has three distinct play modes: in dungeons you are playing a side-scrolling platform game; on the over-world map you are playing a very Zelda-like games; and the boss battles are more like vertical shooters. These different modes keep things varied and interesting throughout the rather huge game that took me many hours to slog through. I honestly didn’t expect the game to be as long as it was, which as it turns out was both a good and bad thing.

Golvellius uses a virtual d-pad for movement and two virtual buttons for all of the actions, including attacks and jumps and any other special moves. The game is screen-based, meaning that you move around inside a single panel, then it changes and you are on a different panel, and so on. The movement control is four-directional as implied by a d-pad rather than using a full analog stick control. This also means that the hero can only make attacks on the four main directions, though enemies can attack from just about any angle. This requires you to move quickly and evade until you can line up your own attacks.


There are also some issues with the game. The d-pad control system lacks precision and often feels unresponsive, causing you to lose health as you fail to move quickly enough or make your attack. Worse yet, the framerate feels inconsistent, as if sometimes you are cruising along and other times you are stuck wading through a swamp. This works in conjunction with the controls to make the overall experience occasionally frustrating.

Yet those issues can be addressed in an update, and I hope they are fixed soon. Because aside from those couple of things the game is a nice slice of retro-heaven! And for $2, it is an amazing deal even with the issues I mentioned. However, if you are not a fan of retro-gaming and not invested in this game, I suggest skipping Golvellius: retro games have certain features that have evolved over time that feel awkward now, so this might prove more frustration than enjoyment … but that is true for any retro game on any platform. For fans of the original game this is an absolute no-brainer: just buy it now. If you like retro-gaming, the hassles are worth enduring to experience the joys of a classic action-adventure.

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store Link

Price: $1.99

What I Like:
– Classic game nicely ported
– Apparently has the upgraded soundtrack
– Long game
– Tons of fun!

What Needs Improvement:
– Controls are imprecise and occasionally unresponsive
– Frame rate occasionally drags, slowing things down.

Categories: Reviews

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7 replies

  1. (I work for DotEmu)

    Thanks for the review. We are working on a update that will improve the framerate (by ~20%) and increase the d-pad responsiveness. The update should be validated by Apple in a couple of days :)


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