When Infinity Blade was released for iOS, iPhone and iPad gamers all over the world became very, very excited. Here was a game with incredible graphics, marvelous gameplay, and an exciting (albeit threadbare) story. And, as can always be expected when a genre-defining hit is born, the clones slowly began to surface. It took some time, as Infinity Blade was quite unlike any other game that had come before. While games that required you to swing your character’s sword in a specific direction at a specific angle had existed on the Nintendo Wii already, they were nowhere near as engaging as this. And, unlike those that had come before, Infinity Blade was a graphical marvel that you could carry around in your pocket.
Thankfully, Infinity Blade was a massive success, because some of my favorite iOS games exist simply by virtue of Infinity Blade’s inspirational combat. I’ve included a list of the games I’ve played in this swipe-fighter genre, as well as my thoughts on each, below:
Infinity Blade ($2.99) – The granddaddy of them all, Infinity Blade vaulted Epic Games and Chair Entertainment into the forefront of the iOS community. I was already quite impressed with some of Chair’s other work, specifically Shadow Complex for the Xbox Live Arcade. Infinity Blade’s portability, interesting take on death and rebirth, and emphasis on collecting and mastering all of the weapons and items in the game really appealed to the RPG gamer in me. The combat was one of skill, however, which meant that the more I played, the better I got, so that I could take out The God King (the game’s villain) using the weakest of all weapons, if I was willing to put in the work. I did, by the way, and earned an achievement for it in Game Center. Infinity Blade may not be the best game on this list, but it’s certainly the most important. And, if you haven’t played it, then you should definitely pick it up before you do play the best game on this list.
Infinity Blade II ($6.99) – This is the best game on this list. The story in the original was, like the best undergarments, barely there. The creators of the series did their best to rectify that situation this time around. They even released a novella (Infinity Blade: Awakening) to bridge the gap between the two stories and pre-introduce you to characters that would make an appearance in the sequel. In fact, the end of the novella and the beginning of the game overlap. I recommend the book simply because it makes the rules of the game world much clearer than the game does itself. Plus, it’s a fun read. As for the game, it takes the initial formula and builds on top of it, giving players the opportunity to use two-handed weapons or wield a weapon in each hand. Your weapon choice also determines your fighting style, changing the way battles play out rather immensely. Plus, instead of traveling on an endless loop through the same castle, players can choose varying paths to arrive at different destinations, each of which must be completed to truly move forward. I won’t spoil any of the story, but let’s just say that it reveals a lot about the character of the original game and really is a compelling tale.
Dark Meadow ($5.99) – Almost a year after Infinity Blade was released, Dark Meadow hit the scene as the first true clone. While the sword combat was less complex, Dark Meadow added a crossbow that could be used to attack enemies from a distance as they slowly lumbered (or sometimes sprinted) into melee distance. Instead of armor and helmets to choose from, players wear amulets to increase health and also add stat boosts. Instead of a linear progression from start to finish, players are tasked with exploring an abandoned hospital full of grotesque, twisted creatures. While the game is clearly inspired by Infinity Blade (with special thanks to Chair included in the game’s credits), it stands on its own thanks to its excellent storytelling and incredibly creepy visuals. Plus, if you are already a fan of Infinity Blade, this game is just different enough to scratch that itch without making it feel as though you’re playing the same game over again. If you are looking forward to giving this game a go, but aren’t sure that the $5.99 is worth it, the developers will be releasing a free version of the game that has a few ads and supports in-app purchasing for gold (something that is already available in the original). I was quite happy with the game as a paid version, however, and highly recommend it.
Batman Arkham City Lockdown ($5.99) – I’ll admit that when I first bought this game, I was a little disappointed in it. It seemed at first that the gameplay was lacking and the developer was hoping that the Batman license itself would carry sales. After playing through the entire campaign in a rather short period, I felt like the gameplay left a lot to be desired. Then I realized just how much was left to upgrade for my character and as I began the upgrade process, the gameplay started to come alive. Suddenly, in combat, I could throw smoke grenades to choke enemies, giving me a free attack. Or if I were so inclined, I could send a swarm of bats into the face of my opponent damaging him and interrupting his attack. As I leveled up Batman’s gear, I found myself drawn further and further into the game. The real kicker came with the most recent update, however, which added an additional level with a new boss. I had stomped Two-Face, Solomon Grundy, Deathstroke, and The Joker into the dirt so many times that I was rarely having trouble with them. Thankfully, the update added Harley Quinn as an additional boss. The biggest difference between Lockdown and the other Infinity Blade clones is the way combat is a fairly unique affair. Instead of tapping dodge buttons or shield buttons, players simply tap or swipe down on the screen at the right time to turn the tables in Batman’s favor. Once a thug is stunned, Batman can proceed to deliver skull-cracking blows in rapid succession, with combos adding to the damage that can be delivered. While the game may not have the same staying power as Infinity Blade II, fans of Batman will certainly enjoy seeing the characters come to life on their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
RobotGladi8or ($2.99) – I’m still on the fence with this game. It’s different enough from Infinity Blade that I give the developer credit, but the combat doesn’t feel as fluid or intuitive as any of the other games on this list. You play as a former soldier abandoned on a space station full of robot gladiators fighting for your life and the amusement of the galaxy. I’m still only a little bit into the game, but a key difference in this game is the way you can explore the world by walking around like a traditional first-person shooter. However, there isn’t a great deal to find and can actually lead to frustration, as you try to find your way around some of the more cluttered areas of the game. I’ll stick with it, but I suggest waiting for a $0.99 sale. The developer is the same as the iOS game dream:scape, which is an adventure game with a pretty cool story and some creepy, though sometimes frustrating, gameplay.
Blood & Glory (Free, with a heavy emphasis on in-app purchases) – This is the absolute worst cash grab I have ever personally played on the iPhone. This is a free-to-play clone that is set in ancient Rome. You play as a gladiator just trying to make his way through daily combat. Unfortunately, this game is bogged down by either an excessive amount of grinding to afford new weapons and armor, or by spending real money to speed the process. One nice advantage of Blood & Glory, however, is that it’s available for the Mac, as well. If you have either a Magic Trackpad or a MacBook with a Multi-Touch trackpad, you can simply slide your fingers across its surface to perform attacks. However, unless you have nothing but free time, I suggest buying one of the paid apps above so that you can make progress without feeling like you’re wasting your day with nothing to show for it.