Shadow Blade in Review – Old School Action With Modern Looks

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Amongst all of my past console excursions, the one that I remember with the most fondness was my time spent playing my Nintendo Entertainment System.  A franchise that kept me entertained if not a bit frustrated was Ninja Gaiden, the tale of a ninja named Ryu that kicked butt and liked to do back flips.  At first glance one might feel that Shadow Blade is a modern interpretation of this classic series, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  After spending some time with the game I’m not so sure if it’s meant to be an homage to or simply inspired by the old favorites, but either way the game is quite entertaining.  It also manages to pretty much conquer the issues most action games have with controls on a touch screen device.

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There are no cutsecnes in the game or story panels hidden away in some obscure help menu, so you really don’t know why you’re doing what you do.  What you do figure out early on, however, is that you’re a cool ninja with some decent skillz that likes to collect shiny lights and glowing green Japanese symbols.  To complete a level you just need to find the exit, but to master a level you must collect three shurkiens: one for finishing the level below a certain time, another for collecting all the shiny lights and a third for uncovering the two glowing green symbols somewhere within the level.  These goals must be completed simultaneously in order to get all three shurkiens, so don’t think you’ll leisurely stroll through collecting goods in one round and then just fly through the level to earn that third elusive timing star.

Along the way you’ll face all the usual platforming pratfalls like deadly spikes, platforms that spin, platforms with deadly spikes that spin and more.  There are also plenty of enemies to take out before they get the drop on you.  Thankfully you’ve apparently been trained well because you can double jump, flip between walls to climb high, and smash through ice walls by attacking while in mid air.  You can also kill your opponents in several different ways, the most efficient of which is executed when you sneak up behind them.  Keep in mind that while it make take you multiple hits to down a foe, they will take you out in one, as will the unfortunate circumstance of running into anything that you shouldn’t.  At least there are checkpoints along the way so you don’t have to start over, but these can really mess you up if you’re trying for that timer star since the timer doesn’t reset to where it was when you first activated the checkpoint.

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There are two ways to control your ninja: gesture based and with a virtual joystick.  I gave the gesture controls a try for a few seconds, and they might not be bad once you get used to them, but the virtual joystick works so well that I’ve not looked back again.  There are arrows for moving left and right as well as buttons for jumping and attacking, and aside from the occasional misstep that I think is inherent to touch controls I’ve not had a single issue doing what I’ve needed to unless I just haven’t had the skill to do it.  The game is made up of three chapters with 10 levels each and a hardcore mode with 9 levels.  Unfortunately, without and leaderboards or Game Center achievements there’s little cause to replay anything once you’ve earned the maximum number of stars available on a given level.

The game looks great.  The backgrounds have a gritty feel to them and are nicely detailed.  The characters are well designed and the animation is well done.  The game doesn’t get overly bloody or anything, but it might be a bit gruesome for the younger set.  The sound effects are decent and while there’s not a lot of ambient noise there are a couple of nice touches like the sound of the train in the background of certain scenes.  The music isn’t bad, but from what I can tell there’s only one track that plays throughout all the levels.  Either that or it all sounds the same to me.

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Shadow Blade is a prime example of platforming done right on a touch screen device.  The bite size levels make it more than tolerable if you have to play one several times before getting it right, and the spot on controls make sure you don’t have to worry about that too often.  The game looks good and sounds decent, and the levels are actually designed pretty well.  The down side is that there isn’t much replay value, and a skilled player will probably make it through most levels rather quickly.  Some achievements and a leaderboard would certainly help sweeten the pot, and hopefully decent sales will inspire the developer to add a couple more level sets.  Despite its shortcomings Shadow Blade is a lot of fun to play.

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App Summary
Title: Shadow BladeDeveloper: Crescent Moon Games
Reviewed Ver:1.1.1Min OS Req:4.0
Price:$1.99App Size:155 MB
  • Fun game play
  • Well designed levels
  • Tight controls
  • Excellent visuals and good sound
  • Low replay value
  • No achievements or leaderboards
  • Only one musical track

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