Dark Shrine in Review – Swipe, swipe, swipe… kill!

While the AppStore often seems to be swamped with Action/RPG titles a quick look through them quickly reveals that either there is very little RPG to talk about. That, or the games are jRPG. The few left are a rare exception, that contain quite a few gems. And it seems that the recent Dark Shrine may have all it takes to join the said elite guild of AppStore games. Feel free to discuss this review of Dark Shrine in our forums.

Dark Shrine is an isometric 3D Action/RPG with a clever use of the unique iPhone controls. It follows the story of Leinhart (you may remember the name from GAMEVIL’s excellent HYBRID: Eternal Whisper (TMA Review of Hybrid) though there seems to be no connection whatsoever), a young prince stranded at the bottom of the Dark Shrine. His only way out is up, through the denizens of the cursed place and scores of assassins, sent after him by an unknown force.

The gameplay is fairly straightforward – on each level you have to find 3 fragments of the portal gem, as well (possibly) complete some other part of the main mission (i.e. kill the boss) to open a portal to the next and/or previous level. Yes, you read correctly – the portals come in two varieties – the blue, which take you to a new level, and the red, which take you to a previous one. Why would you go there you ask? Well, sometimes there simply isn’t a choice. The levels are fairly small and riddled with enemies, that keep respawning (on most of the levels at least).

The RPG elements are quite light, though substantial in comparison to many other titles. As you eliminate enemies you gain experience and on the levelup, in addition to the refilled Health and Mana bars (hello Diablo) you get 10 points you can spend on either the Max HP/SP or the spell skills. Note that you have to completely fill the skill bar to upgrade it to the next level. There are only 3 equipment slots (jewelry, weapon, armor) and a limited amount of free slots for each, but this feels nicely with the overall gameplay style.

The mainstream gameplay is punctuated by minigames every few levels. They range from a simple match 2 memory game to evading the bunny to some completely crazy with bonuses awarded on successful completion.

The graphics are quite nicely done and focus on flawless performance. While the unit models aren’t that detailed, they are done in such a style that it feels they ought to look that way. The most interesting thing about Dark Shrine is the interface. For one thing this one of the few Action/RPG games using the vertical screen orientation. For the other – it is optimized for the use of gestures. You tap and hold to move, double-tap to rotate the point of view and swipe at the enemies to attack. And herein lies the problem. It’s very difficult to repeatedly target the same enemy with swipes and you often end up moving instead of hitting. This is made even more frustrating because the special attacks are triggered by a series of different swipes.

Dark Shrine is a cutesy action/RPG with great characters, fun dialogues, original controls and fun and addictive gameplay. It really shows the way how Action/RPG games can take a step away from the traditional D-Pad/Button controls and provide an extra level of player interaction. Unfortunately these controls could still use quite a bit of touching up to provide for truly comfortable play.

With this I declare Dark Shrine officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Dark Shrine Developer: Devsisters
Reviewed Ver: 1.01 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $4.99 App Size: 11.7 MB
  • Innovative controls
  • Nice cutesy graphics
  • Humorous dialogues
  • Minigames
  • Lacking story
  • Some control issues


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A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well): http://twitter.com/ChiffaNe

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