By Nigel Wood
At the WWDC in June Digital Legends wowed crowds with their God of War-esque demo of Kroll. A 3D side scrolling hack and slash for iPhone. Boasting that they had ported a full level of the game with just two weeks of hands on with the iPhone SDK, the game looked incredibly polished featuring graphics you would expect to see on a PSP. Now the game is out, does it still cause your jaw to hit the floor, or leave a nasty taste in your mouth?
Well, as I mentioned in our hands on Monday. The game looks and sounds awesome! From the moment you boot it up, the production values are high. You are presented with an ancient book, which sets the scene with beautifully illustrated 3D pages which animate as the they turn, and with a satisfying crisp paper sound. The pages then become the menu screen to begin the fist chapter, and pull you in to begin the adventure. Each level is presented on a side scrolling plain but features full 3D environments, including character models and background scenery. This gives a great impression of larger, detailed world and a feeling of depth with far off mountains in the distance and rocks and foliage in the foreground.
Textures are sharp and models are higher in polygon counts than your typical iPhone 3D game like Pangea’s Bugdom 2. The character animation looks great. This is most apparent in the cut scenes, which are presented in a God of War QTE (Quick Time Event), requiring you to hit skull symbols at the right time in order to trigger your characters actions. These scenes have a strong filmic quality to them and really add to the experience. Music is fantastic too featuring an orchestral score along the lines of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ battle at helms deep. Sound is good, but some of the creature sounds get a little repetitive.
To control your character you touch certain areas on the screen. Tapping in the bottom corners causes your character to move in that direction. Hitting the left or right sides of the screen makes him lunge his battle mallet, including a slight step forward, in that direction. Tap the top corners of the screen and he’ll swing his mallet, causing greater damage to enemies. And finally, once you have accumulated enough kills you can pull off a power move by either shaking the iPhone or tapping on Kroll himself. This makes him slam his mallet into the floor causing damage to all caught in it’s shock wave.
If you saw the demo then you may notice that some moves are missing, such as jump, the ability to grab on to ropes and abseil from platform to platform, and also the control over other weapon types. We’re not sure why these are absent. But maybe in testing Digital Legends thought they didn’t work as well, and would as a result hurt the final experience.
So how does the final Kroll play. Well, the game isn’t very deep, requiring only that you hack and slash your way through 9 levels across 3 chapters containing waves of monsters. Culminating in a boss battle at the end of every 3rd level in a chapter. As mentioned before these boss encounters are QTE events and don’t require much skill. It’s a shame that Digital Legends didn’t add more variation in the QTE’s… maybe a ‘shake’ here or a ‘gesture’ there would add to the tension of the battle. The hack and slash portions are the meat of the game, where you roam from left to right fighting through monsters such as scorpions and troll like creatures. Unfortunately the variation on the enemies is lacking, with only 4 enemy types. Most of these only have one attack, such as the scorpions, and in most difficulty settings they can be dispatched easily. The only skill in the game comes when fighting a spear and shield wielding guardian before the end of each level. Looking a bit like the Egyptian dog warrior from the mummy movies, you must time your attacks if you are to avoid feeling the tip of his spear in your ribs.
Once you have made it through the main game, which takes around 1-2 hours depending on difficulty settings. You meet the boss guy for the final time. Another QTE battle begins, which again requires little skill. And then apart from a beautifully animated death scene, that’s it. There’s no end story sequence, no shot of our hero riding into the sunset. It’s all over a little prematurely.
Kroll is a good exercise in how to make a good looking game on the iphone, but I think the developer has got carried away and lost sight of the golden rule of gaming, and that’s ‘Gameplay’. For ‘hack and slash’ game fans looking for an experience harking back to the days of Golden Axe and Double Dragon there is fun to be had… just don’t expect God of War. It’s easy to get caught up in the great visuals and sound, and with this game engine doing what it does, I can’t wait to see what Digital legends do next.
Presentation & Graphics: 10
Music is top notch, but some sound effects are a little overused and lack variation.
Simple hack’n'slash gaming under all those fancy polygons may not be to everyone’s cup of tea. In this aspect it performs well, but the developer could have added more moves and the GTE’s could be fleshed out. So gameplay drops a point from 6 to 5.
Game life: 4
The whole experience is over too quickly, shame as it looks so good!
Game rating: 7
Ok! the gameplay isn’t the deepest out there. I wouldn’t usually say this, but the visual and aural experience almost make up for it. $7.99 (£4.99) for what some are calling a technical demo may seem a high price. But if you want a few hours of top quality hack and slash gaming and a something to wow your DS or PSP owning friends, then you can’t go wrong.