ChAIR’s Infinity Blade is a slightly odd proposition. Following on from the wildly impressive (and free) visual treat that was the free-roaming technical marvel Epic Citadel, this is the ‘full’ experience, the game previously known as Project Sword and, going off the first hour or so I’ve spent with this brand new iPhone game, it was a moniker that certainly fitted.
Spending £3.49 ($6) on an unknown quantity would normally have been something of a risk, but it’s not as if anyone’s going into this blind, at least in terms of the overall theme even if the game’s mechanics might be something of a surprise: gone is the freeroaming element and in its place is a ‘choose your own path’ pre-determined, overtly structured and linear set of rules which the player must follow.
Infinity Blade is set twenty years after the initial cut-scene, and plays out in the form of a tale of vengeance – a one man mission against dozens of increasingly butch, armoured and sizeable foes that stand in your way at every junction. The player simply taps on blue circles that determine his next micro-path, one normally punctuated by another iron-clad brute with a sword.
Thankfully, the seemingly endless array of battles play out with a sense of sturdiness and weight that echoes the on-screen visuals – they’re one on one but ebb and flow nicely with parries, blocks and dodges just as important as the gesture-based swings of steel and with additional on-screen buttons for powered up attacks and magic there’s plenty of strategical options during each scrap.
The style and grace of the fighting is truly impressive, but it’s the groundbreaking graphics that steal the show (and the recent TV adverts) – despite the change from first person wandering to jumping to pre-set locations the player still has control of the camera and the Unreal engine still shines through with stunning vistas, detailed textures and (on iPhone 4 at least) a decent frame-rate. There’s a lack of shadows, which is off-putting, but it’s otherwise exemplary.
As a game, though? We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen more of it and know where it’s going, but at first glance Infinity Blade is clearly a showcase for Apple’s mobile technology even if it’s just on the technical merits. The gameplay’s fine though, even if it’s not what some might have expected, and the overall presentation (including some fantastic music) belies the platform.
A landmark moment for mobile gaming.