Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Goblin Sword (iOS) Review

This next review is for a game that came from out of nowhere to give me great delight. It's none other than the impressive Goblin Sword, available exclusively on the iOS App Store for $1.99.

Wears its retro influences proudly like one of its many wearable armors


The fantastic fan and at the same time the arduous challenge of the iOS App Store is locating games of great quality. Sure, the Internet is an excellent source to find knowledge of the more popular games, but many times, truly wonderful games do fall through the cracks. One game that I discovered upon that I feel immensely lucky for doing so is the 2D action platformer Goblin Sword. What it lacks in narrative it more than makes up for in fabulous challenge, great level design, and tight controls.

What there is of the story in Goblin Sword is very loose and very light. The only real scenes expressing any dialogue happen after certain boss battles, and really, once you see the still frame cutscenes, you're left with the strong sense of saying to yourself, "that's it?"

Still, while the story elements of Goblin Sword do little to drive players' motivation to go through the 40+ levels of the game, it's the excellent gameplay that personally kept me coming back for more and more. This consists of 2D hack-and-slash sword or whip action similar to the Castlevania series, as well as careful platforming to dodge traps like bottomless pits and spikes. Your hero can perform a double jump with ease as well as slash foes into oblivion, though most require more than one swing of the sword or strike of the whip.

The initial forest world nicely eases you into Goblin Sword's gameplay.
There are five worlds in Goblin Sword, and once you complete halfway through the third, the final two worlds open up for you play whenever and in whatever order you like. Levels are relatively short, usually last anywhere between 3-5 minutes in length. The design here is magnificent, constantly throwing new challenges in your path for your to overcome. Replay value comes from the wealth of secrets each level houses.

The enemy variety is immense, throwing in all kinds of foes for your hero to face.
In each level there are two hidden treasure chests to find, either containing precious gems to purchase new weapons, armor, and skill-bestowing relics, or actual treasure. This can come in the form of a new weapon, armor, or relic, but also things like potions that when four have been collected, you earn a new heart of health to add to your total.

There are also three crystals hidden in each level as well. Some are right out in the open, requiring some careful, precision platforming to attain, while others use a common trick in Goblin Sword. You see, there are a lot of secret alcoves in the game, all of which are uncovered by walking through what initially seems like a solid wall. Most of the game's secrets are placed behind such innocuous spots, meaning that in every level, you'll want to jump into any curious-looking walls, hoping to find a hidden area. This can be a bit exhausting, leaping into every wall in hopes of finding a secret path, but most are placed in locations that show intelligent design.

Blue orbs found in levels grant you a temporary upgrade to your weapon's attack ability.
Finding all of the crystals in a world unlocks a super special secret level that dishes out the most challenge of Goblin Sword, whether it's tough and difficult enemy placement, a barrage of enemies, or intricate and challenging platforming. As all levels in Goblin Sword lack checkpoints since they're so relatively short, you'll need to bring your "A" game in these especially tricky levels.

Each world houses two boss battles. One takes place after the first half of levels have been finished off while the second happens at the end. They're their own stages, so there's no worry about having to go through a platforming test before you have to face off with the boss. Boss battles have patterns to follow, tricky attacks to dodge, and spots where they're temporarily immobile, perfect for getting a few strikes in on their health bar. These battles are indeed a lot of fun and require skill in overcoming them.

Geez! Did someone pee in this boss's cereal this morning or what?!
Overcoming levels and bosses isn't made difficult because the touch controls of Goblin Sword work quite well. Moreover, if you demand greater precision in your controls, you can use a compatible MFi controller for added comfort and accuracy. I used the latter for the most part, and my enjoyment of Goblin Sword was heightened because of it.

While you explore levels and take on bosses, you'll earn gems to be used in Goblin Sword's shop. No worries about any microtransactions here. Everything in the shop is purchased via these gems, whether it's new swords with varying statistics (in attack power, speed of use, and range) as well as their own special attacks, used when your hero comes across special blue orbs in levels. Armor seems to be only good for fashion reasons, as you take the same damage regardless of what armor you wear. Finally, relics can be purchased, giving you abilities like more health-restoring hearts dropped by enemies, the ability to glide, or a super helpful triple jump for more challenging, platforming-centric levels.

A wide range of weaponry, armor, and relics are available for you to purchase with gems found in levels.
Goblin Sword will take most players about five hours to go through. Then there's the various achievements available to try to complete, such as clearing every level 100%, beating all bosses, buying everything in the shop, and overcome time trials in levels. There's a lot to do in Goblin Sword, and the great part is that once you pay the amazingly low price of $1.99 for the game (Careful, Phil, you're sounding like a late night TV infomercial), you've paid all you need to in this IAP-free title.

If you're looking for an incredibly fun, superbly designed 2D hack-and-slash action platformer (a mouthful, for sure), then Goblin Sword fits that bill wonderfully. It holds many fun secrets in its levels, the boss battles are fantastic, it has plenty of content for its price, and the controls are essentially immaculate. The story is needless, and the reliance on secret alcoves in the level design might drive some players crazy, but overall, Goblin Sword amazes in nearly every virtual crevice.

[SPC Says: A-]

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