VIABLE ALTERNATIVE For hardcore gamers used to playing on consoles and high-end PCs, Infinity Blade is the game that proves iOS’s worth.
Nothing is better than playing a game that takes full advantage of its hardware. Over the years we've seen a lot of gimmicky peripherals, from light guns to motion controllers, that do nothing but interfere with a player's will, and certainly don't improve upon a traditional gamepad. Occasionally, you'll get a Guitar Hero or a Kirby: Canvas Curse — not only a perfect synthesis of hardware and software, but a game that could not exist without its unique inputs.
For the iPhone and iPad, both driven entirely by a touchscreen interface, finding a killer app has been almost freakishly easy. Thanks in large part to Angry Birds, its variants, and its hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, the viability of Apple's iOS as a popular gaming platform isn't in doubt. The iPhone and the iPad have made gamers out of the most casual users. But for the hardcore, those who are used to playing games on consoles and high-end PCs, it's a different game that has proven iOS's worth. That game is Infinity Blade.
The first Infinity Blade came out just over a year ago, and immediately wowed gamers with high-quality visuals and visceral sword fighting gameplay. The conceit is simple: with the swipe of a finger, your swordsman will stab, slash, or parry in the appropriate direction. A few onscreen buttons also allow for basic blocking, dodging, and special attacks. From this premise come duels of depth and elegance against devious foes who attack from all angles, who feint and probe, and who will annihilate you the moment your attention lapses. Although there are plenty of challenging games available on iOS for the hardcore player, none has managed to make the touchscreen interface sing the way Infinity Blade does.
And so the newly released Infinity Blade II is immediately familiar to anyone who played its predecessor, but comes loaded with the sort of expansions that gamers have come to expect from a sequel. Two weapons classes have been added: heavy weapons, which are cumbersome but do serious damage, and dual-wield, which grant the player quickness and dexterity at the cost of defense. A new customization system allows players to modify weapons and armor by adding power gems that affect their attributes and abilities. And while Infinity Blade II is still meant to be consumed in bite-sized chunks one crossing of swords at a time, a more elaborate, maze-like layout requires more concentration on the player's part.
It's all well and good. Given the choice between more Infinity Blade and less Infinity Blade, I'll take the former every time. Developer Chair seems to want to flesh out a substantial narrative for their universe, and broaden their game as well as deepen it. But that's not why you want to play it. The game's core appeal remains the intricate one-on-one swordfights that demand fast reflexes, strategic thinking, and nerves of steel. Console gaming tropes like cutscenes, backtracking, and hidden treasures are fun but immaterial. Chair's true accomplishment with Infinity Blade has been to make the hardcore game that defines iOS. It is impossible to imagine playing it any other way.