"He who receives a gift sells his liberty." So begins "Crimson Shroud," downloadable to your Nintendo 3DS for a cool 8 bucks.

The advent of video games was a gift to fans of role-playing games, who no longer had to roll dice to decide the outcomes of their actions. They could let "the computer" decide how much damage their attacks did, if they were swift enough to avoid an incoming arrow, whether their attempt to bribe a castle guard was successful. But those who gave up traditional role-playing games for video game versions gave up the option to tell their own stories, to spend an evening with some fellow nerds, and, most fundamentally, to roll the dice.

"Crimson Shroud," developed by Yasumi Matsuno, of "Final Fantasy Tactics" and "Vagrant Story" fame, doesn't bring back the human component of role-playing games (which are still played at a comic book store near you), but at least it brings back the dice. Not physically, I'm afraid, and rolls of the dice are no less random than the capriciousness of "the computer," but there's something special about manipulating the touchscreen to pick up the dice, roll them around and give them a throw.

"Crimson Shroud" is old-school in every way, down to its tabletop look, with your characters and the enemies represented as game pieces on a stage that looks like it was made from cardboard. Less happily, also returning from days of yore are puzzles with out-of-the-blue solutions. Gamers these days just don't have the patience for this kind of disrespect of their time. Google, of course, can tell you what to do, but I'd rather certain sections of "Crimson Shroud" be less arbitrary so I could play them myself.


'Crimson Shroud'
» System: 3DS
» Price: $7.99

But with a fun story, a brisk (10 hours maximum) adventure and as pretty music as you could hope for in a downloadable game, "Crimson Shroud" is a good choice for those hoping to revisit the good old days and those who want to visit days they weren't around for. - Ryan Vogt