Imagine an old western theme infused with futuristic mutants where you play as William Glaston, a native of Hammer’s Peak, which is the territory that has been overrun. Bladeslinger delivers this premise through a 3D action adventure game that offers the western overtones combined with some futuristic technologies. William Glaston is outfitted with an artificial arm infused with power, and has an electrical whip at his disposal in addition to his regular six shooter. That’s quite an arsenal to take on very nasty looking mutant enemies, and you can control it all through touch. There are action buttons to punch, block, and shoot, and then you can swipe the screen in different directions to use your whip.
The most noticeable aspect of Bladeslinger is the visual design, which just may be the best on iOS. The 3D environments are absolutely superb with detailed lighting effects and modeling. The animations are even better to witness the combat in action with such a smooth flow while performing the various attacks. The entire game engine is just so well designed, to the point that you can switch camera angle between two attackers on the fly. In fact, when you tap on the second enemy icon, the camera shifts, but whatever attacks you’re still performing are played out in fluid motion, which the camera shifts around. There’s no doubt that Bladeslinger is a visual spectacle, but that is only one criteria that a game is judged by.
The most important part of any game is the gameplay, and that’s where Bladeslinger comes up short. The main problem is that every action in the game is extremely repetitive, so that the battles feel almost exactly the same. Your best attack is to swipe to whip, while building up consecutive hits, and the only variability comes in actively thinking to change up the attacks just for the sake of change. The combat is just so rudimentary that is nothing more than a glorified button masher with swipes instead. The one change of pace is access to special moves performed by drawing out shapes with your fingers, but therein lies another problem with the game.
The game launched as a paid app late in 2012, but it has been updated to include some in-app purchases related to upgrades and special abilities. You can enhance your entire attack arsenal, but the special powers are consumable temporary boosts that you have to keep buying. The same goes for your health meter, so often you end up spending your money on health or special moves, and then don’t have any money left for the worthwhile upgrades. The updates have actually hampered the experience, rather than improve it, which is a rare feat indeed. There are hours of content available to play through with a dull storyline tying it all together, but no part of the game makes you care to keep playing. The bland repetitive feel is a definite turn off, and you keep expecting variation that just never comes, even with the boss battles.
Bladeslinger ($2.99, Universal) looks so promising, but never taps into its potential. It’s one of the best looking games in the App Store, but the gameplay is rudimentary at best with other restrictions sprinkled in, sadly making it one to skip.