Heaven, Hell and everything in between. The Bible can be translated and perceived in many different ways; it can be used as a guide in which a person may live, it can be used to teach lessons to the masses or it can be used as inspiration for an epic movie/game/comic with kick-arse action and a divine protagonist that gets fans of the supernatural into an excited frenzy. Black Tower Studios alongside Unity Games have jumped onto this bandwagon with the release of their new action game “Archangel” which puts you into the holy boots of a soldier working for the lord as he is tasked with a mission that revolves around the cleansing of a darkness-filled plane of existence. Boasting fantastic graphics and an innovative control systems, “Archangel” has been presented as the game to end all mobile games but does it truly hold it to hype?
As I mentioned above; the story revolves around an Archangel (a well-ranked angel of God) that has been deployed into an area of existence that has become occupied by the forces of darkness and evil, clearly the almighty has seen that this darkness will soon spread and has sent one of his “top men” to eradicate the threat. This is basically all you are given to start off with and it sticks with you for a while because the story doesn’t entirely have a nice pacing to it so you grasp the idea of being a holy soldier and you keep it in your mind as you begin to play the game. As you play through the game you realise that no new or exciting information has been delivered to you, every couple of levels you’re met with a small piece of text that says something profound about your mission or what exists in the area you’re currently in but nothing that really has any hold on the audience.
It has such a slow pace, it leaves a lot tot the imagination but it may have left too much to the imagination, it gave us a jumping off point but then never really gave us anything else. If you’re clever you can pick up the story from the small pieces of unspoken dialogue that appear throughout the game but they’re few and far between. I quite enjoy the idea of an angelic battle against the demonic, it is movies like “Dogma” or “Legion” that pique my interest so you can imagine I was actually quite ready to dive head first into this game and unfortunately I was met with something below my expectations. Fantastic idea for a game that, although somewhat generic, would have been incredible had it been executed and paced properly. it is unfortunate but it is the truth.
The gameplay is where “Archangel” made its second mistake, I could honestly see what the development team were going for when they implemented this style of gameplay but it came across as, somewhat, lazy and it really wasn’t as effective as I assume they first thought. Basically it is a game where you are forced to “tap” to do most things, this includes walking and attacking enemies. “Archangel” is very gesture-heavy, alongside tapping, it has players make symbols and shapes to execute moves; flicking across the character will have him dash forward with his shield ahead of him knocking enemies away, drawing a line across the ground will have the character summon a wall of fire that damages enemies walking through it, it is things like this that are actually kind of nice to play around with but quickly falls to pieces when you’re met with more than three enemies at a time.
The different gestures constantly confuse themselves of each other, sometimes swiping a line near my character wont make a wall of fire but instead it will dash into an oncoming enemy and vice versa.Though I actually enjoy the idea of gesture-based gameplay I don’t think it works in a game like this, not when you’re expected to fight many enemies at once and react to them as quickly as possible, you’re also faced with obstacles that you must overcome which is terrible when the character has to be signalled to walk with a tap, this means there’s no such thing as quickly ducking out of the way of a speeding arrow or fireball which I can only assume is what has been expected considering the creation of these levels were not done by accident.
There were a lot of unlockables, weapons, armour, spells, etc that you could get your hands on throughout the game which actually played a fairly big part statistically, giving you more defence or more attack with some equipable items being part of a set that could be obtained and used for an all around boost. They did that extremely well but it would have been a lot more enjoyable that the actual gameplay allowed for it to be. Another thing I both enjoyed and resented was the way the health system worked; you begin with standard health and standard attack power but the more combos you built up and the more enemies you defeated, the more health and more power you would earn. I found that quite interesting but ultimately underwhelming simply because you can be brought from maximum health to half health with nothing more than a standard attack from an enemy, it’s odd to punish a player after putting in so much work and that is exactly what it felt like. Look, put simply; if your car is a lemon, customising it with all the flashiest accessories wont make it any less of a lemon.
Black Tower Studios clearly went all out when it came to the visual side of “Archangel” and I say that because the graphics were absolutely amazing! The entire game looked well-polished and a majority of screenshots one would take in a level would probably make for an incredibly good-looking wallpaper, if only the gameplay was as fantastic as the aesthetics of the game. Let me start by going on the all around design and theme of the title: Because of its “otherworldly” setting, the development team made the levels as ancient, beautiful and somewhat daunting as they possibly could. I’d compare the style of this game to that of, let’s say, “God of War” or “Dante’s Inferno”, fans of those games will know exactly what I’m talking about when I compare them, I don’t believe this to a clone of those game but I do believe there was a sense of inspiration that came from those titles.
It was all very mythological yet divine and because of its “break away” level layout it did seem like the area WAS decaying. When I say “break away” I refer to the look of the levels, it looks as though the stages were built in the middle of the air so paths don’t always lead onto other paths, sometimes a pillar may be floating next to a ledge or a huge piece of rock would be hovering next to a large piece of land you can actually walk on, I would almost compare it to the way the game “Bastion” looked bar the “being built as you walk” style in which that game employed. The animation was great too, though it did often glitch and the character would fall through the ground or vibrate half way off a ledge before eventually just dying and respawning at a checkpoint.
The music throughout “Archangel” can actually be described in quite a similar way to the visuals of the game. I’ve used this word a few times but the music does indeed seem to have a sense of divinity about it though something else you could say is that it has a, kind of, creeping sound where you’re lead to believe you’re in an are or a situation which calls for you anticipate or fear, it’s quite a daunting sound that suits the game to a tee. As for things like sound effects I can’t honestly say any of them made a real impact on me but on the same token I can’t say they did nothing for me either. the best way to categorise or to put a label on the sound effects of “Archangel” is that they were…expected, which is actually not a bad thing to say.
The good thing about the sound effects were that they properly conveyed the message that they were intended for and, after playing through the game only for a short time, you can already tell what sound means what which is great for times where you’re surrounded by enemies and you’re trying to use a spell but don’t know why it isn’t working, the sound tells you that that move cannot be used, it’s something so small but it is also something you pick up on. I had no problems whatsoever with the audio of this game, it was done just as will as the visuals which gives it a nice big tick in the “pros” column.
The game is good at best, it talked the talk but it couldn’t walk the walk. It boasted a great deal of things that I never actually witnessed while playing through as much of the game as I could bare and its gameplay style made me put it down several times out of pure frustration but I cannot speak for everyone, there may be many people out there who enjoy this type of game and you reading this might actually be one of them.
If you have a spare $4.99 to spend than maybe you could try this game out for yourself but I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone that is NOT forgiving enough to put what it lacks aside and enjoy it for what it is which is, essentially, a good looking game but, for me, looks aren’t everything when it comes to a game. I highly suggest that, if you do plan on playing this game, it is probably better to play it on a system like the iPad rather than the iPhone or iPod Touch, the larger screen gives you a better idea of just how good the game looks and the already difficult gameplay will be less difficult on a larger machine. Neither Heaven nor Hell…this game resides somewhere in Limbo.
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