This week, I found myself without a new app to review, so I did what I often do and headed over to iTunes to see what was listed under the New and Noteworthy section. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to find much, as the titles on offer rarely interest me, however, one caught my eye: God of Blades.
Time was of the essence, so I took a glance at a few screenshots, liked what I saw, clicked the Buy Now button and waited for it to download. Having not read the description, this was something of a risk, but then a randomly chosen app can often make for an entertaining one to review. Would God of Blades, a game I knew nothing about, turn out to be a great blind buy, or one I would play only for the purposes of writing this review?
Upon opening the game, I was instantly reminded of Psygnosis’ Shadow of the Beast, a classic 16-bit side-scrolling beat ‘em up that was more style over substance. God of Blades shares the same haunting score, similarly mystical setting and supernatural lead character too. This could go either way, as Shadow of the Beast quickly became tiresome once you’d finished gawping at the graphics and the parallax scrolling.
The plot of God of Blades goes something like this: You play a king who comes back from the dead to save his kingdom from hideous invaders, which you do with the help of various massive swords. My early look made me think it was going to be a single-screen beat ‘em up, but instead, God of Blades is a variation on the endless-runner genre.
You start each level by grabbing your sword and running into battle. The action scrolls to the left and you’re met by different foes who you must defeat to reach your goal. Swinging your sword is done with a series of screen swipes, much like Infinity Blade, where for example an upward swipe sees your character do the same with his sword, while a forward swipe performs a double hit, and a backwards swipe parries an enemy attack.
Some enemies stand about waiting for you to slice them up, while others are far more aggressive, and you need to parry before picking the right moment to attack. It’s not as complex as Infinity Blade’s combat system, but then it’s a much more casual game, however it still requires skill and practice to master. You’ll need all the help you can get later on too, as some of the baddies are really tough, and the bosses even more so. You’ve got a special attack to help out, which changes with each different sword, and is activated by tapping a button. Be warned though – it needs recharging after each use.
Pass a level and you get points to spend on a new sword. The graphics are really special, with beautifully animated characters and movements, and incredibly detailed backgrounds which really help God of Blades’ world come alive. The inter-level sequences are also fantastic, with flavour text scrolling over stunning astral landscapes. Overall, the design made me think of amazing VHS video covers from the 80s, like Deathstalker, Conquest and Conan the Barbarian.
The design is equalled by the synth-filled score too, which sounds best when listened to over headphones. All this visual and aural beauty disguises what is a simple game very well, but the well-constructed story pulls you into a fantastical world of which you want to be a part; it really is absorbing. Running along, hacking and slashing, just doesn’t get old – something that’s not true of other endless-running games.
That said, it’s still just as accessible, and a five minute game is as enjoyable as one that lasts 30 minutes. If I have any complaints, it’s that the parry move is a real pain, as it refuses to block certain attacks. This could be intentional, but repeatedly losing energy to an enemy because you can’t seem to block his attacks is frustrating. But when that’s the only problem worth mentioning, you know the game is a good one.
God of Blades costs £1.99 and is universal for the iPhone and iPad, plus it’s compatible with the longer screen of the iPhone 5 too. I think I struck gold choosing God of Blades as my blind buy, as I found a game that’s filled with flair and imagination, and embraces an unusual genre. I think it’s brilliant.