- by Ray Barnholt
- March 17, 2011 12:00 PM PT
This tribal take on shoot-em-ups seems like it would be pretty refreshing, but some basic flaws keep this from being a prime time-waster.
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Game name: Ring Blade Price: $0.99 Compatible with: iPhone (version reviewed), iPad
What is it? Ring Blade looks like what would happen if a vertical shoot-em-up took place in a tattoo parlor. you control a kind of launcher that fires the eponymous ring blades towards a consistent stream of enemies. you slide the launcher left or right to dodge enemies or projectiles, and you flick your finger up to shoot blades in the desired direction. Wait a few moments for a charge meter to fill, and you can shoot a more powerful blade that tears through smaller enemies, rather than disappearing like the rest of your normal shots.
Who made it? MindTrip Studios in association with PalmStorm, both small companies working in the mobile space. Ring Blade is MindTrip’s first production.
What works? The tribal designs are certainly something you don’t see everyday in games (except maybe the UFC series), so due credit must be given to the developers for trying a new angle on art design. On the technical side, the game is lightweight enough to load quickly and let you save at your last completed stage.
What doesn’t work? The one-finger control is smart in theory, but in play, repeatedly moving your launcher and then quickly flicking out blades becomes too challenging to be fun after several levels. however, you can use two fingers to move and shoot if you really want to, but it still doesn’t feel as intuitive as it would with a physical control pad. It’s the same sort of issue I had with the similar Big Bang Mini on Nintendo DS. I don’t want to totally condemn the game for that, though, since the increase in difficulty is sensibly gradual, and fingers-only is better than, say, using tilt controls would be. plus, power-ups like invincibility are a welcome relief when they appear. And as neat as the art style is, the sprites — practically all of the graphics, actually — are mostly static. The enemies pulse and twirl a lot as they fly around the screen, but I wouldn’t call that real animation. I expected these tribal designs to have as much flowing motion to them as their designs suggest, but in actuality, it’s not much different than someone with tattoos twitching the body parts they’re drawn on.
What’s the estimated shelf-life? It’s designed for easy play in short bursts, so Ring Blade seems like it’s capable of holding your attention for a while. but with so many repetitive parts of the game (the action; the graphics; the music), you’ll likely be bored of it in short order.
Is it worth the price of admission? 99 cents isn’t going to hurt anyone, but there are plenty of better-playing shooters (and shooter-alikes) on iOS platforms for that price, if not a tiny bit more.