Gameloftare best known for putting their own spin on big name console games and bringing them to iOS. The results are usually either hit or miss. Lately, though they’ve been on a roll, with one spectacular title after another. While Shadow Guardian (out now, $6.99) caught everyone unawares given the fact it was released so soon after it was announced, the core concept of the game came as no surprise – it’s basically Naughty Dog’s Uncharted for iPhone, with elements from Assassins Creed, Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider thrown in for good measure.
It’s not vastly original, yet thanks to a clever combination of engrossing plot, action-packed gameplay, stunning graphics and a well pitched tone and feel, Gameloft have crafted another title that’s polished enough to rub shoulders with the rest of the big App Store releases this X-mas.
The adventure kicks off with the main protagonist, Jason Call, strapped to a strange looking device with an even stranger man telling him that he needs to extract some of the memories locked in Jason’s head, which, apparently he lost after some kind of an an “accident”. While immediately we doubt the intentions of this man, the only way to get into the story is to go along with his plan. So we do just that.
You start in Indonesia, captured by some sort of para-military force. They lead you through a tutorial which covers the basics like moving and jumping. Movement is handled with a thumb-stick on the bottom left corner. It feels a little loose and can get a bit jumpy. Also, it’s a tad slow to respond at times given the rapid pace at which the game moves, but you soon get used to it. Jumping is executed by running at a cliff and quickly tapping the action button, much like in the Prince of Persia series. After a while you realize there doesn’t seem to be a real risk of falling even though some hand-holds break and you do slip on occasion. There is usually only one route to the next check-point and the game takes on quite a linear feel.
The fun comes once you engage the soldiers and begin taking them out in bone crunching fashion by hitting the action button when standing near them. You receive your first gun and use a fire button to discharge it. There is also an aiming function that will generally auto-target your nearest foe. Dispatching enemies generally takes a few shots unless you hit ’em in the head. The coolest part is when you encounter a large group of soldiers and get pinned down behind cover.
Cover is taken by approaching a wall or barricade and hitting the action button. You crouch behind chunks of scenery and when you feel the need to move forward, you can vault over your current position and move to another, or throw yourself sideways in order to flank enemies. These firefights carry a fair weight of intensity as you can see the bullets whizz past you and kick up bits of debris as they smash into your cover. You can hit your iron sights button to get a better shot on your target, stand up and fire from the shoulder or just stick your weapon over the wall and spray. You can move your sights by dragging your finger around the screen, this also works while firing to track down a target while it moves.
You seem to be able to take a fair amount of bullets. Your vision begins to turn red as you take hits, increasingly so as you near death. There are a fair few different weapons to be found throughout the game, and you can scavenge ammo from felled soldiers. Some guns have scopes and better sights while some do not. There are also melee combat options when within range of an enemy and they tend to be pretty devastating.
There are also a fair amount of Tomb Raider-esque puzzles to be solved within temples. Some require a little time to crack, while some are simpler. The tasks usually include rotating mirrors or such to open doors or reveal hidden passageways. None of them are all that difficult, but they add a welcome sense of discovery and exploration to the game. In addition to shoot-outs and problem solving, quite a bit of acrobatics are required to reach your next objective.
The free-running sections of the Shadow Guardian seem impressive at first, but, unfortunately, the same actions are reused for many parts of the game. Thankfully, some cinematic scenes see you performing some pretty impressive stunts. You find yourself in a variety of locations, some suburban and many remote jungle or desert locations with ruins and temples. Nearly all of the stunts in the game are completed using the action button and directional stick. None of it is massively challenging, or free-flowing for that matter. And gameplay boils down to jumping, sprinting, and throwing yourself along a mapped out path of obstacles.
The graphics of the game are pretty well done; character models look great, while the various landscapes and temples are highly detailed. Overall, the game looks and feels very much like any other third-person Gameloft outing,which is by no means a negative in this case. Things sometimes get a bit squirrelly during some of the bigger, graphically demanding segments, but that’s to be expected because, after all, you are playing this on a phone!.
iFanzine Verdict:Shadow Guardian looks great and plays well. While the game feels linear and planned out at times, there’s usually a great combat scene around the next corner to break up the monotony. The graphics here are some of Gameloft’s best yet and help add to the enjoyment of exploring landscapes. Overall, Shadow Guardian is a fun, immersive game with a good story and varied gameplay.