Infinity Blade was impressive and, to a point, proved the
gaming prowess of the iOS platform better than anything before it. Developer ChAIR’s
hack-and-slash adventure made the platform sing, showing that relatively
complex games could work exclusively with a touchscreen so long as they were
developed with the limitations in mind. Sure, it was still simple and fairly
short, but it gave us a glimpse at a beefy, hardcore, 3D future, away from the platform’s
typical assortment of fart apps and casual games that involve throwing birds at
pigs. With Infinity Blade II, ChAIR expands on the original’s concepts,
creating a bigger, better Infinity Blade that makes the original look like a
There are no puzzles to solve or platforms to jump on in
Infinity Blade. It’s a game about one-on-one duels; battles between two combatants
standing toe-to-toe and exchanging blows. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the
classic Nintendo game Punch-Out!! in that the player’s job is to defend until
the opponent is weakened enough to drop its defense, and then slashing them
apart by swiping across the touch screen.
Above: Dual-wielding is fast and acrobatic, but does less damage
It’s tactile and fulfilling, just as it was in the first
game, and while there weren’t many changes to the traditional combat, ChAIR did
add two alternate weapon types that completely alter the flow of combat. Whereas
the original had players dodging, parrying, and blocking, the new weapons limit
the player’s defensive abilities in favor of more powerful offensive attacks.
Two-handed weapons, for instance, remove the ability to dodge, and make perfect
timing with blocks and parrying much more important. But there’s a trade-off: the
damage was high enough to justify the sacrifice, and made battles come to a
quick conclusion as long as we were able to survive the initial onslaught.
Dual-wielding proved fun, too, swapping the shield for a duck to allow for more
acrobatic defense. Both new modes work well, and we found ourselves dropping
the shield early on and never looking back.
Above: Check out a video of the game in action
The more we played and picked up more powerful weapons and
equipped them with stat-altering gems (a new addition), the quicker we’d
dispose of enemies, but as time went on Infinity Blade II felt like it was
testing us, trying to get us to change things up. Whereas success in the first
game relied on memorizing enemy’s tells, success in this one relies on
memorization with an asterisk. Enemies occasionally abused our false sense of
security by changing up their moves mid-battle, forcing us to adapt on the fly
instead of relying on our memorization. It wasn’t unfair, though – the game may
have tricked us, but it certainly gave us ample time to correct ourselves, as
long as we weren’t too steadfast in our learned ways.
All roads (don't) lead to Rome
The story picks up mere moments after the conclusion of the
first game, and has the protagonist fighting through a castle in order to free
a captive prisoner so that he can help defeat the Deathless – a group of
immortal beings that rule the world. It’s not an incredibly in-depth story, but
it’s a story nevertheless, with somewhat interesting characters and English
voice acting to replace the original games’ plot-less gibberish.
Above: Though they get repetitive, the finishing blow animations are always cool to look at
ChAIR addressed complaints of linearity with the first game
by offering a much larger area to explore. Though still on-rails, the sequel
offers a number of different paths to choose from, each with their own set of
challenges. These paths all end in a boss that needs to be defeated in order to
unlock the final areas of the game, and sometimes defeating these bosses
unlocks new areas on that specific path with even more bosses.
But despite expanding the castle and adding multiple bosses,
the game still retains one major component from the original: death. If we died
to a regular enemy we were allowed to try again, but losing to a boss still
sent us kicking and screaming to the beginning of the castle. It's not
punishment, per se – more a sign that we weren't strong enough. While regular
enemies scaled to our level, the bosses were static in their strength, and when
we died we’d usually wait until we were significantly geared up with new
weapons, armors, helmets, and magical rings before attempting to slay them
Above: We prepare to face our bitter rival: guy with a horse for a head
When we actually were buff enough to take on the bosses we
were slightly disappointed by the actual encounters. The boss mechanics are
fairly standard, and it isn’t until late in the game that the bosses actually
start to throw some curve balls beyond the typical assortment. They’re unique
looking and have their own animations, but the fact that they didn’t have many
tricks was sort of sad – if there are only a few bosses in the game, they should
have brought much more to the table than they did.
A pretty face... at a cost
Epic generally won’t put their name on something unless it’s
really pretty, and, just as was the case with the first game, Infinity Blade II
is really pretty. And not just “good looking for an iOS game,” either – there’s
nothing on the PSP or 3DS that holds a candle to how good Infinity Blade II
looks. Characters are incredibly detailed, environments are breathtaking, and
the textures and models could likely stand up to some of the earlier Xbox 360
games from this generation. It’s that good.
As long as you have an iPhone 4S or an iPad 2, at least.
Above: In motion there's water pouring from that wound, and it looks awesome
Otherwise you might run into some problems. We played mostly
on a 4S and iPad 2, but we also messed around with the game on an older iPod
Touch and had a number of problems. At first it would crash almost nonstop –
something that was fixed with a reboot – but even after that there were still
issues. The framerate would often stutter when the action got too intense and each
battle would be ended with five or so seconds of lag before the game would
actually begin again – something we didn’t need to deal with on the newer
models. It’s still playable, but until the developers better optimize the game
for older devices (and fix the reported issue of freezing and deleting saved
files) it might be worth waiting, or upgrading to a newer iOS device. But no
matter which device you have, you’re going to want to hang out near a power
outlet – this thing will destroy your
But is it big enough?
We love the new combat to death, and the new locations and
enemies are a blast to cut apart. Still, we can’t help but feel like we’re
playing with training wheels on, even with all of the changes the developer
made to assure that Infinity Blade II was so much bigger than its predecessor.
More locations would help, but a revamp of the travel system would help even
more, and make Infinity Blade II feel more like a full game.
Above: Obviously you can't parry monsters that use claws and teeth
Then again, it is
a mobile game, and one that launched at under $10, so at over five hours of
gameplay, we definitely feel like we got plenty of bang for our buck,
especially considering all of the six to eight-hour long single-player games we
spent $60 this holiday season.
Is it better than...
Yes. Easily. Infinity Blade II improves on literally every aspect of the
original, and though it retains some of the same issues (death animations with
blunt weapons still look silly), it’s undeniably a superior product.
Dark Meadow? Depends. Though Dark Meadow looked like an
Infinity Blade rip-off it was actually a much more complete experience. Sure,
it had similar gameplay, but it also brought a story, interesting characters,
and varied locations to the table. That said, the combat is nowhere near as
precise as what we have in Infinity Blade II, so it really depends on what
you’re looking for as to whether or not it’s better.
Punch-Out!!? Yes. Well, when it comes to the actual
gameplay, at least – we aren’t going to act as though the God King has better
character design than classic King Hippo and Don Flamenco, but while ChAIR’s
combat borrowed heavily from Punch-Out!!, they absolutely did it better. Whereas
Nintendo’s fighter is focused only on memorization to a fault, Infinity Blade
II adds in multiple elements to make the combat more fulfilling and enjoyable.
For those who skipped straight to the end
Infinity Blade II makes quick work to slash apart most of
the grievances we had with the original while improving on literally every
aspect, but the sequel isn’t without issues. Despite charging towards feeling
like a truly complete game, the linearity still holds it back, though we
imagine downloadable content will likely fill out the experience.