Shadow Guardian Review

This Uncharted rip-off jumps from one ledge to another, loses its footing, and falls hard on its pretty face.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was critically accepted  as being the best console game of 2009. There are many factors that contributed to it’s success: a great storyline, believable characters, good voice acting, dazzling graphics, varied gameplay, a solid multi-player mode, and many others. Aside from it’s graphics, Shadow Guardian fails to deliver in any of these areas.

You play as Jason Call, an assumed explorer/treasure hunter extraordinaire. I say “assumed” because we really have no idea the context for what is going on throughout the game. Essentially, you are being held captive in some lab, and being lectured by some guy. Oh and he’s also interrogating you… but I never actually heard Jason answer any questions. Much like the recent Call of Duty: Black Ops game, your “interrogation” is being used to further the storyline along by playing through flashbacks. To be fair, these cut-scenes between levels were the best part of the game for me. The lab looks visually stunning on an iPhone 4, and the voice acting of the antagonist, while pretty cheesy, is passable. Unfortunately, the lack of lip-syncing distracts from the drama of these scenes, and makes the characters look like talking dolls. Considering Modern Combat 2 had lip-syncing in it’s cut-scenes, I’m surprised Shadow Guardian does not.

the character models are certainly impressive.

the character models are certainly impressive.

That said, it’s not the cut-scenes that ruin Shadow Guardian, it’s the gameplay – which feels like playing a video game version of a strategy guide. Essentially, you are shown exactly where to go, and given an extremely linear path to take from point A to point B in every level I played. One of the most maddening aspects of the game involves Jason’s (assumed) mental voice that tells you every single thing you’re doing, and going to do, from one ledge crawl to the next.

No seriously, it’s really bad.

I’ll post some screen shots so you can see examples, but let me give an example for what I’m talking about. The voice in Jason’s head isn’t actually voiced (thank God), it is portrayed through constant text pop-ups as you play. For example, if I were to climb a wall and then jump a couple times to grab a ledge, here is what would pop up on the screen through the 20 second experience:

“Ok, let’s climb this wall so we can get to that ledge up there!”

“Keep climbing…”

“One more block…”

“Jump to the right!”

“Ok one more jump…”

“We’re here!”

Really? I wasn’t aware that Jason and I were holding hands throughout the game, and that he thought he was being controlled by a 5 year old. One of the more hilarious aspects of Jason’s internal monologue is his bizarre wonderment at every little damn thing that happens to him. For instance, in one room he tells you… er, tells himself that you need to activate a few mechanisms to open a door. Then, when the door opens, he says “A door!?” Or when you see an ancient elevator, then get on it and press a button to activate it: “An elevator!?” It’s admittedly hilarious, but not in an endearing way.

When you’re not climbing pre-enabled ledges and jumps on a single linear path, you’re shooting bad guys that somehow made it

that's what she said...

that's what she said...

deep into the ruins you are exploring. Nope, that is not explained. In fact, I don’t even know why they are are there in the first place, but who needs to reasoning and logic? Let’s shoot some guys! The combat is as generic as it gets, and uses Gears of War cover mechanics. Unfortunately, being in cover doesn’t generally keep you from getting shot, specifically from explosive weapons. So far I have yet to find a way to cover from these, as hiding behind any wall will still leave you taking damage. When you leave cover to aim, you immediately snap to the nearest bad guy, fire your gun a couple times, and he goes down. You also have melee attack combos that directly mimic the slow-mo moves in Uncharted. Other than a few specific instances where you can sneak up on an enemy, hand-to-hand combat is not used much.

To drive the point home, here’s a quick summary of how you progress in any given level:

“Climb a set path of ledges from point A to point B, shoot a bunch of mindless baddies at point B, then climb another set of pre-determined ledges from point B to point C. Solve a “puzzle” that was completely explained as you entered the room. Be extremely surprised that something happens after you complete the puzzle. Climb more ledges, then suddenly a cut-scene happens that doesn’t directly relate to your last known position in the game. (At one point early on I went from climbing a cliff to being contained by bad guys in a cut-scene. Neat.) Lather, rinse, and repeat for the rest of the game, and you’ve experienced everything Shadow Guardian has to offer!”

Sure, there’s an occasional boss fight thrown in for good measure, but that’s about as interesting as things get. The bosses were probably the most enjoyable part of the game, but overall the experiences with them were brief. They also don’t all make a lot of sense. Like the rest of the bad guys that randomly appear in levels, they often felt forced, and generally weren’t that interesting. Just to be clear, the boss fights weren’t bad, but were more so overshadowed by the rest of the poor gameplay in the game.

From what I’ve heard, Shadow Guardian started out as a tech demo to show what could be done graphically with the iDevices.

OMG NO WAI!! thx 4 teh HALP!

OMG NO WAI!! thx 4 teh HALP!

In this single point, it succeeds. The visuals in the game are fantastic. While not as good as Infinity Blade or Rage (or the upcoming Dead Space game, for that matter), Shadow Guardian is a pretty game. Is it worth buying to show your friends? No. For less money there are plenty of other “pretty” games which will not only show off some of the best graphics on the iPhone, but actually entertain you as well.

Gameloft has had a few winners this year with Modern Combat 2 and N.O.V.A. 2, but they are still stuck in the rut of copying and ripping off popular console games. The problem with this business model is the high expectations associated with a game that is “inspired by” a high-quality console title, and I think it’s something that may eventually catch up with the folks at Gameloft. Then again, from what I’ve seen with people who buy games on the App Store since it’s release, shiny and colorful tends to trump bad gameplay and pathetic story telling any day. Perhaps Gameloft knows exactly what they’re doing, and would rather release a half-assed rendition of a popular game than spend the extra money to develop a truly unique experience and story for a game that draws players in. I don’t know how much money Shadow Guardian has made, but I would guarantee most of those sales came from people who saw the screen shots and instantly thought “Wow! Uncharted on the iPhone! Sold.” I feel bad for these people, and I hope the word gets out to major publishers/developers that the iPhone isn’t just about eye candy or pseudo-console games anymore. It’s a legitimate gaming console, and it deserves legitimate games rather than cheap ports and bland rip-offs.


Shadow Guardian – $6.99

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  • Hisiru

    Well… I really love N.O.V.2 and some other clones even if it’s just a clone that won’t give you the same experience as the console version. I would love to see more unique games like Cut The Rope or Monster Dash but rip-offs or not, games like Aphalt, N.O.V.A 2, Modern Combat etc really gives more value to the AppStore. So… bring more rip-offs if they are as good as N.O.V.A. 2.

    As for Shadow Guardian, man… you are right. This game takes the word “bad” to a whole new level. I don’t care if it looks like Uncharted or has pretty graphics, it’s just a bad game and the word “bad” isn’t really enough to describe this garbage.

    It’s so easy that it makes me cry. What can we expect from Shadow Guardian 2? “I will walk 10 steps now and go to the left, then I have to walk more 20 steps and push the button to solve the puzzle” or “Wow! It’s raining!”

    Sorry TouchGen but this game deserves 1 star and even the boss fights can’t save this game from being garbage.

    Can you hear me Gameloft? This game is GARBAGE and I PAID FOR IT! I feel bad for all the buyers.

  • LBG

    I actually love this game. Almost as much as NOVA 2, Aralon, Real Racing 2 etc, and I prefer this game to Infinity Blade (which I thought was way too repetitive/boring/restrictive). I know the captions can be annoying, but I tend to ignore/skip them. The graphics are great, the controls are great, the gameplay is great (although understandably not as good as Uncharted). This is definitely one of my favourite games of the year, and I’ve played a lot of games.

  • Afterlife0614

    I agree with LBG, the score “2″ is next to garbage(“1″), which is quite harsh.. the biggest problem this review is referring to are the annoying captions that tells everything.. Well, if gameloft just added an option to turn off the captions, I think the gameplay would be much more different..

  • Shaun

    This game is desired for 1 point , i know you’re not gonna like it but it’s must be , a suck copycat of Uncharted with every stupid things , missing textures everywhere even my iphone 4 , pathetic gameplay , poor movement and the last thing i want to say the character’s mouth is shut down and worse they can still speak , the game is worthless

  • Hisiru

    No, the review is also saying how the game is repetitive, cover mechanics does not work, puzzles are easy, etc.

    If Shadow Guardian had a good gameplay + difficulty and if it wasn’t so repetitive (climbing a wall for 10 minutes? Come on….) I would try to skip all those captions.

    You and LGB are probably Gameloft employees. There is no way you can ignore all the flaws in this game unless you aren’t paying for it.

  • LBG

    @ Shaun

    Those problems you described (weird textures) are associated with pirated games. I’m having none of those problems running the game (which I bought through iTunes) on my iPhone 4.

    If you pirated the game then you have no right to be complaining about it.

  • LBG

    @ Hisiru

    Sure, there are flaws in the game. But in my opinion it’s still a great game. I don’t know why you’re having a problem accepting that people have differing opinions to yours. I’m not criticising the review, I’m just giving my own honest opinion.

  • Hisiru

    You are probably playing a pirated version of the game. There is no texture problems with my itunes copy and I am using an Ipod Touch 3G. As LGB said, you have no right to be complaining if you didn’t paid for it.

    Ok LGB, I will accept your opinion. Can you at least agree that you expected a better game?

  • xstra

    I really wanted this game to be good so i cud get it. Based on this review i think i will pass

  • Thefunkhunter

    How can u give a clone like nova such a great review and dis this gAme? I agree gameloft is pretty bad with all the clone games and their lack of originality, we need more games like galaxy on fire 2 and sentinel 3… But it’s unfair to give this game such a low rating when games like nova and eternal legacy get positive reviews from u guys

  • qazpoi

    I have to disagree with you. This game is great, even though it may be a blatant ripoff of Uncharted.

    Your complains:
    1)No lipsyncing, Jason doesn’t answer questions. – [Do you play/buy the game to hear the characters talk? I don't and I doubt most of us do that. If a robber asked you the password to your safe, would you give it to him? Jason wouldn't and the same goes with me.]

    2)Being directed to move every single step. – [What's the problem with that? Do you realise (you should since you're an iPhone gaming site) that most of the iPhone "gamers" are non-hardcore gamers? That's why games like Cut the Rope and Angry Birds are the best-selling games in the appstore. Most iPhone gamers need some sort of a guide to direct them through the levels. If you think it's annoying, just silent the game.

    3. Taking cover should prevent you from getting hurt. - [That never happens in real life. Since you're so much into "reasoning and logic", here's the hard cold truth: Hiding behind a wall/rock doesn't work as a forcefield that blocks all bullets/rockets/explosives.

    4. Shadow Guardian is a ripoff of Uncharted. - [ NOVA and Modern Combat, which you hold in such high esteem and practically worship, are inspired by Halo and Call of Duty respectively, C'mon, don't tell me you didn't see the similarities. Eternal Legacy is a "tribute" to Final Fantasy. Hero of Sparta is God of Wars' long lost twin. Gangstar shares the same mother as GTA. Asphalt and Need For Speed. and the list goes on and on. So much for calling them winners. But I'm not complaining, cause we probably won't see many of the original titles in the Appstore.]

    Hisiru, “bad” to a whole new level? Do you even know what you’re talking about? This game is great from a technical point of view. If you didn’t enjoy it, it’s not cause it’s bad, but due to your own opinion.

    Shaun, people who pirate games should never complain. No one else seems to have graphic/texture problems with the game except you. Sorry but your opinion should be discarded.

    P.S. I know many out there are gonna suspect I’m affiliated to Gameloft, but as much as I wish to be part of a big gaming company like theirs, I’m just a regular iPhone gamer giving her 2 cents worth. I sincerely hope Matt would do more research before posting any reviews that may question his professionalism.

  • Endwaro7

    this game is garbage!!!!! i dont care if its a copy its garbage!!!!! gameloft is like the wii. The only good games the wii has are the ones nintendo releases. Not even all of nintendo are good. Just some mario and zelda and metroid. The rest are garbage just like gamelofts.

  • Nigel Wood, UK

    @Thefunkhunter NOVA2 is a great example of the FPS genre, depsite being a blatant rip off of HALO, it offers good single player gameplay and fantastic online multiplayer for unlimited replayability. Whereas Shadow Guardian, despite its great graphical merits, is a bad example of the action/adventure genre, with a short and uninspiring adventure that grinds you down with each hand-holding move.

  • Zang Xie

    I loves this game so much! I wants to know when Shadow Guardian 2 appear??? Not a long time, hope so ! The real game must be Shadow Guardian ! Thank Gameloft a lot!