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Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles review

This platform-hopping prequel can't hold a candle to the original, but pint-sized murder is still kinda cool

Altair also occasionally ducks into sewers and hazard-filled temples, but everywhere he goes, his goal is the same: follow the green arrow to the next shimmering waypoint, killing or dodging whatever dangers pop up along the way. Altair's also got a few tricks that he didn't have in the console Assassin's Creed, chief among them a grappling hook that can be used to swing across certain chasms or - later on - yank his enemies off their feet.

Using the touchscreen to switch between weapons, he'll also eventually have access to smoke bombs to stun attackers, real bombs to kill them (these can be thrown or planted as a timed explosive), poisoned throwing knives and - in one level - multiple disguises. He'll be able to stealth-kill unsuspecting enemies just by sneaking up on them, and he'll even get a crossbow, which can be aimed by tapping an enemy's icon on the touchscreen map.

Of course, Altair also carries a sword, which comes in handy against all the guards and Templars you'll be facing. The combat here is a little different from the console game; while you'll still fight enemies one at a time, like in a bad kung-fu movie, you can be a little more aggressive, busting out light and hard combos with two buttons instead of just one. As the game progresses, you'll earn new combos, as well as a few familiar moves, like a parry that can open your foes up for an instant kill. Finally, you can upgrade the sword to cartoonish proportions by spending the blue orbs that litter the world like coins in a Mario game.

Oddly, your sword won't always matter during the game's boss fights, most of which are really more about dodging and pushing buttons on cue than anything else. That goes double for the game's recurring/final boss, Lord Basilisk, who really only requires that you hit Y, then X, and then Y again, over and over, until he either gives up or dies. That is until you land the final, killing blow, at which point you'll hit X… and then hit X again before hitting Y! Did this game just blow your mind!?

Not all of Altair's talents are violent ones. He's also a master of picking pockets and interrogation, both of which are accomplished through timed, touchscreen-driven minigames. Picking pockets is pretty simple; you'll start with a black screen representing your target's purse, and then rub your stylus across the darkness to reveal its contents. You'll then need to grab the key (it's always a key) and carefully maneuver it to the purse's opening without bumping it into any of the purse's other contents, some of which tend to move around. Like, back and forth. In a straight line.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionA prequel to the 360/PS3 original, Altair's Chronicles trades the free-roaming assassinations for linear - but surprisingly fun - platform-hopping, trap-dodging action.
PlatformDS
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor ratingRating Pending
Alternative namesAssassin's Creed DS
Release date5 February 2008 (US), (UK)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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