What would happen if Infinity Blade was mixed with Lovecraft?
When Infinity Blade arrived on iOS last year, it did so amid a whirlwind of excitement and bombast. There’s no denying the importance of Epic Games and Chair’s popular iOS game, as it raised the benchmark for visuals on the iPhone and iPad, but once the dust had settled, it became apparent that the game’s level of depth didn’t match the standard of the visuals.The gameplay, while instantly appealing, quickly turned repetitive, and became a grind to finally defeat the final boss.
Why are we talking so much about Infinity Blade in a review for Dark Meadow? Well, in many ways developer Phosphor Games has taken that same template, and altered it to create something a little more compelling. The fight, level up, die and repeat formula remains, but while Infinity Blade required trudging through the same environment with little but upgraded enemies to contend with, Dark Meadow offers a setting worth exploring.
You awake in an abandoned hospital. A man in a wheelchair greets you, offers a quick warning before escaping to whatever safe location he can find. From there, it’s up to you to decipher the truth behind the building and whatever malevolent force is keeping you hostage. Navigation is similar to Infinity Blade, with a simple tap automatically setting you along the path you’ve chosen. Control of the camera is handed to you, providing a better opportunity to find collectables and hidden treasure – something you’ll need to afford the most impressive weaponry.
Notes and clippings are dotted throughout the building, with some harder to spot than others. Each of these, whether it’s the Scrolls Of The Madman or various news articles, create a rich and engrossing supernatural tale. Who are these unnamed characters, or more to the point, which of them is you? Finnie – the man in the wheelchair – is the only interaction you’re provided, and his commentary as you explore the ruins is a welcome addition. His excellently voiced character is used as much for his comedic value as his importance to the story. The part he plays soon turns ambiguous, too, as he disregards the seemingly benevolent mystical forces you’re seeking out.
This is Dark Meadow’s greatest success, crafting a world that invokes the imagination and indirectly prods you to hunt down more in the hopes of discovering the secrets of the world. There’s no doubting it’s a looker, either; a real challenge to Infinity Blade’s reign as one of the best looking games on iOS, and the perfect compliment to all the exploration you’ll be doing. But that’s not to say Dark Meadow isn’t totally devoid of issues. Much like Infinity Blade, in fact, the combat inevitably becomes a chore. The addition of a crossbow adds more to proceedings as you attempt to whittle down the health of the monster that is slowly bearing down on you. But while there are variations in each type – from fast but weak, to slow and powerful – it soon becomes tiring, as each battle turns into a repetitive example of the dodge and counter system we’ve already seen.
Dark Meadow is one of those titles that continues to edge iOS gaming into the standards expected from console and PC gaming, and for that it should be commended. It is still dogged by some of the problems of the Infinity Blade template it so closely follows, meaning those who tired of Chair’s adventure will probably want to give Dark Meadow a miss. Those who want a compelling experience keenly told through subtlety and high-quality voice acting, however, will have already earmarked Dark Meadow as their next purchase.
One of the most impressive titles for a long time, despite its small faults.
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