Infinity Blade II

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3/28/2012 7:00:59 PM

Infinity Blade II

Price: $7.95


System requirements

iPhone 3GS/4/4S/iPod touch 3rd/4th-gen/iPad; iOS 3.2 or later

Description: Infinity Blade II (1)

Not many games get the honor of stage time in the middle of an iPhone launch. But when Tim Cook's team wanted to show off the 4S' gaming pedigree, they made a call to Chair and asked how the sequel to Infinity Blade was coming along.

A one-game riposte to console snobs who don't take mobile gaming seriously, Infinity Blade brought craft and ambition to the iOS platform. It has stunning graphics, slick gameplay and surprisingly deep RPG elements, leavened by a dip-in piecemeal style that perfectly suits gaming on the go.

And now, two months after wowing the 4S launch audience in demo form. Infinity Blade's sequel has burst on to the iTunes Store. But can it improve on the beloved original? And in pushing the limits of Apple's A5 processor in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, has Chair made a game that less fortunate iOS users won't be able to enjoy?

A5 haves and have-nots

Let's tackle the second question first. Infinity Blade 11 is magnificent, with graphics that surpass even the original game, with fast, responsive gameplay. But the iTunes Store's specifications state that as well as A5-equipped devices, the iPad, iPhone 4 and 3GS and two generations of iPod touch can run the game too. (A spokesperson for parent company Epic Games told us it would have preferred - but wasn't permitted - to specify 16GB-plus models of the third-gen iPod touch, however.)

In practice, A5 devices will be at an obvious advantage. We found the game ran like a dream on an iPad 2, but we experienced a few crashes on our IPhone 4; while some early users have complained of more frequent problems on the iPad 1. An update has been issued to address these reports, and the spokesperson assured us that more are on the way.

Infinity - and beyond

The structure of the game is largely the same as before: it's a series of heavily scripted one-on-one battles with giant monsters, with a small amount of choice in the routes you take between them. Each time you must learn your enemy's attack patterns and respond with the correct combination of parries, blocks, counterattacks and magic spells, activated via touchscreen gestures: swipe across the enemy to attack, to the side of the screen to dodge, and so on.

Once you've fought enough missions, you get to a boss. The first time you play he will probably give you a beating, but the beauty of the game, as in the original, is that you immediately get to play through again, with all your equipment and skills intact, and try to do better. That's the 'Infinity' bit.

There's more depth than the first game, with around four times the length of play: different routes will take you to various 'Deathless' bosses. And the fights themselves require more varied techniques: overuse the dodge, for instance, and your character will get exhausted. And each battle offers an XP reward for mastering a particular technique.

There are multiple fighting methods: as well as the classic sword/shield, you can dual-wield or fight with a heavy, two-handed weapon. Ability-enhancing gems help you to upgrade weapons.

Less than Infinity

There are a few changes we're less keen on, though. The premise tacks the neatness of the original, in which getting killed caused you to come back two decades later as your own avenging son. There's more going on plot-wise, however.

It also seems to take longer to get going, thanks partly to a so-so opening section where you're strolling around with super-powerful gear pinched from the God King.

Veteran gamers will know at once that those items are going to be taken away, but you hold on to them for long enough to level up a few times. And when you do lose the infinity Blade, the sense of accumulation, of working your way up from rusty second-hand rubbish to godlike armor and weapons – the essence of all RPGs - is diminished.

Finally, for some odd reason Chair seems to have decided that everyone loved spotting and grabbing those occasional bags of gold in the background of the first game: now there are dozens of them. Instead of sitting back between fights and taking in the astonishing views, you end up obsessively playing 'Where's Wallet?'

Description: Infinity Blade II (2)


Infinity Blade If is the perfect sequel. The graphics are better, you're forced to approach the fights more imaginatively, and there's more of everything. If anything can force the world to take iOS gaming seriously, this is it.


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