Wednesday, December 15, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Braveheart Review

Grade: B
Price: $1 (lite version available)

I kept expecting Braveheart to turn into something interesting: a good Diablo clone, perhaps, or even a deeper version of a Solomon's Keep. When it didn't, I decided to just enjoy it for the slick bit of mindless mayhem it actually is.

That's kind of a shame, since the game is tricked out with all the trappings of a decent RPG app. The production is top-notch. The story, such as it is, is told via expertly drawn comic book panels with some brief flashes of wit. But the narrative doesn't ever add up to more than a clothesline on which to hang the levels, and the character you create never really develops into anything all that interesting.

Oh, the game has plenty of stats and things to buy. There are stats for your hero's two weapons (flail and crossbow) and well as for vitality (total health), mastery (I never did figure this one out), and wisdom. That's all well and good, and I dutifully allotted my points to various stats after each new level, but I couldn't avoid a sneaking feeling that none of it mattered all that much.

You can also buy different versions of the crossbow and flail, each with unique characteristics. There are potions, bonus and perks. Enemies drop plenty of stuff. Everything is here for an interesting RPG.

And then you spend level after level spinning in a circle mowing down waves of enemies and ... actually, there is no "and". That's what you do. And then you do it again. Sometimes you do it over here, and sometimes you do it over there. Sometimes there are slime monsters, sometimes there are tree monsters, sometimes there are wizards. Actually, the game doesn't skimp on the monsters. You get plenty of them, in various forms and types, but they all do one of two things: charge you at the center of the screen, or cast spells at your from a distance.

And it all boils down to making little circley motions with your finger. Your hero's main weapon is a flail, which he wields by spinning around and around really really fast. You draw circles to get him moving, and then using simple taps to steer him around the tiny level maps. After a while, he'll slow down and you have to spin him up again, but he's pretty much a whirling dervish of death, and any critter that comes within flail range is promptly pulped. You can also use a two-finger tap to fire off some crossbow shots, but this actually doesn't integrate all that well with the spin mechanic. You can make it work, but it's a bit awkward.

Don't get me wrong: this is plenty heaps o' fun. The combat is immensely entertaining for a while, but all the RPG paraphernalia kind of gets you hoping for something a little bit ... more. You're largely reduced to knocking off several waves of enemies, and then moving on to the next set. After a few levels, you open a new region, which gives you a new environment and enemies, but the pace and the gameplay never really varies all that much.

Even with these caveats, I'd still say it earn its "B" grade. It doesn't fulfill those initial RPG hopes, but when you get right down to it the spin-slaughter is fairly entertaining, in a mindless and visceral way, and the production is quite good.


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