Hybrid: Eternal Whisper in Review – Controls + Gameplay + Story = Awesomeness?

You know, I must have spent ages on my ancient PC (a crusty 286) playing the big arcade hit: Golden Axe. Years later, I remember it as an amazing blend of side-scrolling action arcade and fighting. Now, what would you get if you mixed that relic with some good ol’ RPG elements? A hybrid? No, THE HYBRID! Introducing the latest epic adventure from the makers of the famous Zenonia, Hybrid: Eternal Whisper.

20 years ago, an evil king gathered an army of nearly invincible Dark Spirits and almost conquered the peaceful land of Patina (Anyone heard this one before?). The only one who was able to stop him was the mysterious Black Knight (not us unfortunately), who single handedly defeated the unstoppable armies, banished the king, and just as mysteriously, disappeared again.

A couple of years later, monsters started to appear but the Assassins and the Royal Knights kept them in check. Meanwhile, Leinhart, leader of the Assassins found a strange boy under a tree. He had grey hair and grey eyes: the trademarks of the dreaded Hybrid bionic weapons (creepy) which were used in the recent war. But the boy was not a weapon. 20 years later, the threat reappeared. The monsters had suddenly become more aggressive and no weapons could harm them. They quickly overwhelmed Patina (here we go again!), and at the last stand of the Assassins stronghold Leinhart dies to save the mysterious boy, Grey. Now he is left alone with Fairy – the mysterious ally from another world who alone has power to uncover the true names of the monsters and make them vulnerable!

hybrid-eternal-whisper-cutscene

Hybrid is defined as an Action/Adventure by its developer, though I would designate it an Action/RPG. It is basically a series of battles (and a whole lot of battles – 70 campaign, 10 hidden stages and an endless mode) strung together by a story and which range in variety from: “kill them all” to “kill them all in 3 minutes or less”. But the beauty of Hybrid lies in the multitude of WAYS you can kill them. Grey can slice and dice them using regular or reverse grip, pepper them with Spirit Magic, freeze them using the Soulblade, and tear them apart using Gravity Skills (Now wouldn’t you just love to do this in real life?). And there is always the beautiful and mysterious fairy (HOT!), who will descend from on high to help Grey by making him invincible for a limited period of time. The best part? All of these attacks can be strung together in combos which would make Street Fighter go weep in the corner. You’ll be rated after each stage on your style (so far I’m a B average, but was able to reach S on one occasion).

hybrid-eternal-whisper-skillsSkills power is defined by 4 base stats (Spirit, Body, Force, Sync) as well as the 3 skills (Magic, Force and Gravity). And all of them can be augmented using items (which range from regular up to rare and unique artifacts which make you unstoppable). Once you have access to the Celestial Garden, you can upgrade your inventory as well take a gamble in combining 2 regular pieces into one rare, or 2 rare pieces into one unique item. So far I have tried about a dozen times and had no luck, but the option is there for a reason, right? You can also just buy items either in the Celestial Garden or from the spirit on the world map.

hybrid-eternal-whisper-items

Games like this are made or broken by their interfaces, and Gamevil have simply outdone themselves. They took the common d-pad, coupled it with one (1!) attack button, one (1!) swap style button and a dozen swipe gestures to make the most suitable control scheme I’ve EVER seen on the “jesus” phone. In fact, I’d venture to call it “perfect”. It should be patented. So the d-pad is for movement (Duh!) and the attack button is for regular sword attacks. The swap style switches between the normal grip (more powerful but hits the enemies only in front) and the reverse grip (less powerful but hits all enemies around you). You can also swap styles at any time during the attack by performing the swap combo attack.

hybrid-eternal-whisper-battle

But the real fun starts once you taste what it is like to use magic after you get your first spirit. Magic is triggered using swipe gestures (i.e. a diagonal swipe from bottom left to top right will trigger the earth spirit and cast the earthquake) and attacks from different elements can be strung together to perform a magic combo which helps conserve mana usage. But if this was all three was, it would be too simple. After each magic attack, as well as some advanced combo attacks, Grey’s necklace will glow. If you manage to double tap the attack button at JUST the right moment, you trigger the Soulblade which basically traps enemies in a gravity circle where Grey will pummel them into coleslaw while they float helplessly. You can also alternate between Force and Magic attacks for a continuous Armageddon on the battlefield (at least until your MP and FP are depleted).

hybrid-eternal-whisper-force

Speaking of Armageddon, I’ve already noted that you can call down Fairy to make you invincible. What I didn’t mention was that if you tap the fairy button while she’s down, she will immediately leave, but not until she turns the stage into the type of smouldering, stormy scene from the movie, Perfect Storm. And how could we forget the Gravity attacks? They are easy to engage and often give that little extra edge on the battlefield that can save your… er, Grey’s life.

hybrid-eternal-whisper-fairy

The graphics are the nice anime-like fair which uniquely attracts gamers from all over. Cute or not, Hybrid really flies, even on my iPhone 3G. For instance, level loading times are rarely more than 5 seconds. Sound is good and music is very energetic, full of the type of effects which you would. Despite a physical size of only 16 MB, all text is live.

You can also zoom into the battlefield hiding the control console, but for some reason it just didn’t work for me. Maybe because the sideways visibility is less, but I just didn’t use that feature.

I got the game about half a day earlier than it hit the store (thank you Gamevil!) and it has simply paralysed my life. Thankfully, I had a portable powerpack with me, otherwise my “Jesus” phone would have been dead long before I had the chance to reach a charger. The controls are exceptional and you can adjust the speed of the game to suit your reflexes. The tutorial levels are excellent and the game really walks you through all of the aspects of gameplay and you can further hone your skills on the training levels in the Celestial Garden.

hybrid-eternal-whisper-training

I do have a couple of gripes with Hybrid. First, gesture controls are sometimes hard to trigger because of strange angles. Secondly, it isn’t easy to notice when the necklace glows (since it’s so small) especially after performing magic attacks which sometimes makes triggering the Soulblade attack a pain. Perhaps Gamevil could place an extra indicator on screen to show when triggering is possible.

Overall I would say that Gamevil has set a new standard for both action/adventure/RPG games on the iPhone. With Hybrid, they’ve paved the way for some serious fighting games to make their way onto the platform. Hybrid is addicting as hell, and the satisfaction of completing combos perfectly is unrivaled. Gamevil Live support is also included to round out your experience. But enough of this, it’s time to get back to kicking some Dark Spirit *pps!

kiss

App Summary
Title:Hybrid: Eternal Whisper (v1.011)Developer:Gamevil
Price:$4.99App Size:0.5 mb
  • Outstanding controls
  • Fast and beautiful graphics
  • Addicting gameplay
  • Tens of hours of gameplay
  • Excellent learning curve and tutorial pace
  • Gesture controls too strict
  • Hard to see Soulblade trigger indicator

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