Bladeslinger Episode 1

All of the major gaming franchises get an iPhone adaptation and Devil May Cry 4 was no exception.  While it got good reviews, it was still plagued by the same issue that face many games for iOS.  Namely that it’s hard to make an action game for a platform that has no buttons!  A new franchise just arrived for iOS that has the shooting and slashing gameplay of Devil May Cry, but also a clever new control scheme.  And it has cowboys!

When the iPhone appeared the “Virtual Stick” became the standard control for action games.  Although there have been many that use this effectively, it has never worked as well as it should.  When Infinity Blade arrived, it brought a new control scheme that consisted entirely of swipes and taps that left the virtual stick in the dust, but also removed the ability to directly control the character’s movement.  Bladeslinger is a rootin’ tootin’  third-person action game that abandons the virtual sticks and buttons, but still gives players full control over their character’s movement.

It does so by taking advantage of the iPhone’s ability to recognize two fingers touching the screen at once.  Players can slide one finger over any part of the screen, and the character will run in that direction.  Slide with two finger and the character looks around instead of moving.  Tap with one finger to shoot, tap with two to dodge.  It takes a few minutes to get comfortable with this set-up, but once players become accustomed to it, it’s definitely superior to the typical set of virtual sticks and buttons.

Aside from the controls, Bladeslinger has some other features going for it.  First, it looks great!  This is a highly detailed 3D world that designed to be a bit of the Old West and a bit futuristic at the same time… plus some supernatural elements too.

It takes place in the future, where the Bladeslinger has returned home to his Western town to find it overrun with disfigured monsters.  Naturally he fights them with a huge revolver that has a big knife blade attached to the barrel.  Indeed, there are a lot of diverse concepts mixed together here, but it all somehow fits in a manner that has a bit of Firefly or Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath to it.

And it’s not just a purdy game, it plays very well too.  The Bladeslinger can move freely though his environments, and when a battle starts, the action is fast and frenetic.  Enemies attack two or three at a time, so the game keeps up a good framerate without overtaxing the mobile device.

The combat system uses guns, swords, a punch attack, dodges, blocks and finishing moves too.  This is just as complex as what would be found in a console action game, but it has been streamlined to work with the touchscreen.   It’s a challenge to master and hardcore players will find it to be a cut above the usual play on iphone games.

There are upgrades and unlockable spell-like abilities which add in new powers as the game progresses.  These can be unlocked in several ways; players who use basic abilities will gradually unlock the intermediate ones, and some of these new abilities will in turn unlock yet more powers.  However some powers are only unlocked by using inventory items; this encourages players to experiment with the various items they find, rather than hoarding them, and to try out their new-found powers in a quest to gain yet more powers.

There are also rare gems that can be used to buy upgrades, and players will need to hunt these down because they are scattered around the levels.  This exploration gives players an incentive to play through multiple times.

And players will want to go through the game more than, because it only takes about three hours to play through it all.  There are multiple difficulty levels and players keep the upgrades they’ve unlocked so there’s ample replay value.

Besides being a bit on the short side, The Bladeslinger also has problems in terms of the limited number of enemy types.  There are only a handful of them, and they tend to attack in similar ways.

Despite the couple of imperfections, The Bladeslinger Episode 1 is an excellent game, made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s the first title put out by developer Kerosene Games.  Players should grab it now and hope that Episode 2 shows up quickly.  It is out now for iOS with an Android version on the way.  Yee haw!