Those who grew up on a diet of NES and Genesis cartridges will know the joy of a simple 2D side-scrolling platformer. And while there are bounties of brilliant platformer games for Windows, the world of mobile gaming has not yet got the same catalogue to boast of. Hopefully, games like Shadow Blade ($1.99) can change that.
That’s not to say Shadow Blade only has old-school charm, though there’s oodles of that. This is a finely-crafted platformer that shines on a variety of devices, from your small iPhone, ten-inch Android tablet or a full-on Mac. It’s also compatible with the Android game console OUYA.
Simple Story & Gorgeous Graphics
Shadow Blade tells the story of Kuro, a young ninja who needs to deliver an important message to the master of his clan. Playing as the ninja, you will need to overcome obstacles in typical side-scrolling platformer fashion, while killing some baddies along the way!
The art-style of the game is one of the many highlights. Despite being a 2D game, rich colours and detailed character art provide an almost 3D sheen. Kills are celebrated with brilliant animations — whether you’re running at full speed and splicing an enemy in half or dropping down from above for an overhead kill. These little things do well to create a connection with your nameless video game character, as opposed to just shooting or punching whatever you see.
Shadow Blade’s soundtrack is nothing to write home about, nor is it so bad that you’ll want to mute the game. It gets the job done – let’s leave it at that.
Old-School Controls & Fantastic Gameplay
The game makes you choose between two types of controls: touch-based swipe or directional and action buttons like an old gamepad. Both control types are intuitive and easy to use, so it’s a matter of personal choice. I loved the feel of the latter as it took me back to the cramped gamepads of yore. You’ll probably choose the same if you’re the type to play emulator games (and if you’re on a Mac, OpenEMU is the best emulation software ever).
This game isn’t addictive; it’s unputdownable (and yes, that’s a word). As you run around trying to escape from spikes, jumping from wall to wall, and slicing up baddies, you feel compelled to play the next level. It’s just fast enough and the levels offer just enough variety that you don’t feel bored.
In each level, you will be tasked with collecting all the gold coins and two special artifacts, all in a limited time. You can check your progress at any time through the heads-up display. If you do it right, the coins, artifacts and time will each earn you a star at the end of the level. Collect enough stars and you can unlock the Hardcore Mode in the game, which is insanely difficult but truckloads of fun.
The only complaint you might have with Shadow Blade is that because of its unputdownable nature, you will breeze through the game in about 2-3 hours (depending on whether you collect all the stars). For $1.99, this might seem like it’s not enough gameplay time. But then again, several AAA games on video game consoles charge $60 for 10 hours of gameplay, so Shadow Blade is still a bargain from that perspective.
Unfortunately, Shadow Blade does not have great replayability. Once you are done collecting all the stars and playing through Hardcore Mode, there’s virtually no reason to go back to the game.
The good news is that developer Crescent Moon Games has released a fourth add-on chapter for free, further extending gameplay. Hopefully Crescent Moon intend to add a couple more chapters! Given the support and addictive nature, you should have no qualms putting down two bucks to play this game — especially if you have an OUYA or an Android gaming controller on which to play it.
Note for Android users: Android users can try out a free version of Shadow Blade and if you like it, buy it through the in-app purchase for the same $1.99. There is also another series called on the Play Store, don’t confuse it with the game by Crescent Moon Games.