'Infinity Blade' Review - A 'Punch-Out' RPG With Swords

Infinity Blade

As we've seen in games like "RAGE," the touch-based gaming on the iPhone and iPad has its limits. Once you start asking people to do too much, controlling virtual analog sticks and the tilt mechanism, all while tapping the screen to fire, the gameplay ends up suffering. "Infinity Blade," from Chair Entertainment, dodges the control issue by having the entire game controllable with one finger. But does that simplicity end up dumbing down the experience? Not hardly.

THE BASICS

Despite what it may look like, the core of "Infinity Blade" is a fighting game, with one-vs-one sword battles taking center stage. As the descendant of a hero, it's up to you to climb to the top of a castle and kill the God King, a seemingly-immortal being, and his minions.

The controls are simple, with taps to control dodging and blocks, and swipes to control your sword.

THE HIGHS

Very, Very Pretty

"RAGE" came out just a few short weeks ago, and was the best-looking iOS game I had ever seen. Its reign was short, though, as "Infinity Blade" now takes the cake as the best looking game on the platform. It's best suited for the iPhone 4, new iPod Touch and iPad, where the full graphical resolution can be appreciated, but even on older devices like the iPhone 3GS, it's gorgeous, with incredible detail for your foes and your hero, as well as the world around you. If ever there was a game to make your Android friends blanch, "Infinity Blade" is it.

Punch-Out With Swords

The gameplay in "Infinity Blade" is closely related to "Punch-Out" in that you're basically just going from one boss battle to the next. When you're in a fight, it's also pretty similar, as you're dodging and blocking your opponent, paying attention to their timing and unleashing power attacks to give yourself the edge. There's a lot more depth in the combat than there was in the classic NES game, but the core will feel very similar.

The short battles, which never last more than a couple minutes, make for perfect iPhone fodder, killing a short subway ride or a boring meeting with ease.

Loot, Loot And More Loot

Throughout your adventure, you'll need to collect better loot to give you the edge in battle. Thankfully, there's plenty. To give you an idea, there are 28 different swords. 28. Toss in a wide variety of helmets, shields, armor, all with unique artwork and abilities, and you've got a lot for collection addicts to keep busy with. Loot has its own experience, too, so using a certain item more will grant you skill points to boost your overall character.

THE LOWS

Déjà Vu All Over Again

From the start of "Infinity Blade" to the final boss takes about 30 minutes. Unfortunately for you, the final boss is likely way above your level and will kill you swiftly. This isn't the end of the game, though. In a unique twist, the game flashes forward a few dozen years as your next descendant is approaching the castle to exact revenge. From there, you start again, but with the same level and equipment that your last descendant died at. The idea is that, after many generations, your descendant (quite possibly your great great great great great grandson) will be strong enough to kill the final boss.

It's a really clever idea, but it still means you're trudging through the same castle over and over again. You'll face new, harder enemies and find new equipment, but it's still the same basic journey.

Exploration Be Damned

Exploration in "Infinity Blade" amounts to scanning the screen, looking for hotspots which you can tap. These might be gold bags or potions. Sometimes it's an alternate path or chest. Since there's no back-tracking, the idea of searching every nook and cranny is kind of lost. Exploration really just turns into a minigame to fill the time between battles, since you can't move your character around yourself. You're just reliant on tapping around the screen, which is a far cry from the awesome exploration elements in "Shadow Complex."

THE VERDICT

The key to "Infinity Blade" is to know what to expect. It's not an "Oblivion"-style RPG, complete a massive, open world to explore. No, you're better off thinking of it as a fighting game with some RPG elements and an exploration minigame thrown in for good measure. It's a really solid fighting game, though, and is a perfect fit for iOS devices. The fact that it boasts the best graphics on the platform doesn't hurt, either.

"Infinity Blade" will be available in the US App Store on December 9.