With the launch of the iPad, Apple has given game developers a new platform on which to stretch their prowess for mobile gaming. The iPad offers several key improvements over the iPhone that make it a different and certainly better gaming platform. The combination of the large multitouch screen, fast processor, the finely tuned OS, and the ubiquitous App Store offer a fantastic platform for both established and indie game developers to create a name for themselves. Today, we review an indie effort called Samurai: Way of the Warrior HD by MadFinger Games.
[singlepic id= 2226 w=225 float=left]WotW HD is the iPad version of the critically acclaimed iPhone game. The game is a hack-n-squash title whose story is set in ancient, feudal Japan and involves Samurai, Shoguns and Ronins. You play a wandering Ronin named Daisuke, who is pulled into a local village’s battle against a ruthless Shogun, Hattoro. You set out on a quest to rescue the village by defeating the evil Shogun and his henchmen, equipped with your trusty man-kimono and Samurai sword. The game is presented in a 3/4th top down perspective and Daisuke can be moved freely in 360 degrees either by tapping a spot on the map or by keeping your finger pressed in the direction of travel. Attacks are unleashed by swiping your finger in three directions – left, right and up. Combos can be made by mixing up the sequence of swipes and there is a handy combo list that can be looked up at any time during the game. Racking up kills builds up your experience points and combos are automatically unlocked as your XP score rises.
Gameplay is very simple and can get repetitive. You find yourself in a small area or a sequence of areas connected by bridges or pathways. The exit from the area is locked till you clear the area of all enemies. You move from enemy to enemy, using strikes and combos to dispose of them till the path to the next area is unlocked. While this may sound like a recipe for boredom, what keeps the game interesting is the combat system and the astounding visual experience.
[singlepic id= 2231 w=225 float=right]The game’s difficulty scales up dramatically, even in easy mode, through the placement of clusters of enemies as the game progresses, as well as a mixture of high agility and high hit count enemies. Getting yourself surrounded by enemies is a sure shot way to see the Game Over screen since Daisuke doesn’t have an extremely long health bar and your health regenerates only after you have unlocked the next area. Therefore, you are forced to think tactically and encouraged to draw out enemies, one or two at a time, from their clusters in order to take them all down. Combo execution is fairly simple and you can dodge enemy attacks by swiping to either side just before the enemy attacks. Chaining combos does require skill, however, and when faced with high agility enemies, it’s important not to waste combos, since it leaves you open to counterattacks. This dynamic livens up what could have been a dull slogfest.
The second aspect that keeps you riveted is the absolutely wonderful visuals. WotW features the best visual art style I have seen on any iDevice game and is a complete treat for the eyes. Be warned though; the game does not shy away from a Mature rating. Enemies can literally be sliced in two, decapitated and generally knocked about, and the game map soon becomes awash in red. Slicing or beheading enemies results in their blood splattering onto the screen ala MW2 (less ketchup-y and more bloody). The story is relayed between levels in the form of hand-drawn comic book panels with subdued shades that contrast wonderfully with the game’s vibrant, saturated colour palette. The game world shifts from a village, across a pond to the Shogun palace/temple, and the backgrounds are suitably varied. Sounds mostly comprise of grunts and yells with the occasional splish as an enemy’s lifeless, hewn body spurts blood all over the place.
[singlepic id= 2228 w=225 float=left]The large screen space on the iPad make movement and combat much easier than on the iPhone, besides letting you see much more of the game world in a single screen. The faster hardware has also allowed the devs to kick up the graphical detail a notch or two. The responsive touch screen on the iPad makes pulling off combat manoeuvres a breeze. The game is fairly short and features just seven levels and three boss fights. Most gamers should be able to finish it within 90 minutes. The game features unlimited continues and frequent checkpointing, so you can always pick up the game less than a minute away from where you last exited it. That makes it quite suitable for frequent start-stop on-the-go play. After you finish the campaign, you can hone your slicing skills by participating in a dojo that throws hordes of enemies at you in an enclosed space. You have to keep slicing your way through them to proceed to further levels. It’s amusing for a while, but it does not up the lasting value significantly.
Samurai: Way of the Warrior HD is a stellar game for the iDevice platforms and a wonderful representation of the iPad’s gaming prowess. The short campaign and the high price ($4.99 for the iPad version, compared to $1.99 for the iPhone version) should not stop you from experiencing one of the best action games available on an iDevice today.