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John Woo’s reputation as a director and filmmaker was built on graceful action set-pieces and high-stakes melodrama. Unfortunately, his first foray into mobile gaming — Chillingo’s thuddingly titled Bloodstroke — has neither. You play as a private security contractor codenamed Lotus, whose task is to escort a brilliant, nervous doctor through a series of levels stretching from Hong Kong to Beijing — all while dispatching the roving bands of gangsters, hitmen, and thugs trying to kill him.
Lotus has the predictable armory of guns, swords, and explosives at her disposal, and the key to Bloodstroke is striking a balance between them. Melee kills are worth more points (which leads to more cash for upgrades), but leave poor Dr. Koorse vulnerable, while grenades are powerful but scarce. Virtual buttons handle the shooting and grenade lobbing, but the close-quarters bloodletting is automatic; Lotus careens into enemies like a sword-wielding pinball, lashing out with her dao blade as soon as she gets into range.
Bloodstroke sometimes threatens to become a workable action game, but its auto-running mechanics suck all of the energy and enjoyment out of its combat. Both Koorse and Lotus sprint through each level on a set, on-rails path. As a result, controlling Lotus feels like driving a car that constantly pulls to the right, and getting where you want to be means fighting the computer each step of the way. Bloodstroke’s kludgy, frustrating controls do little to complement a scoring system that ostensibly prioritizes up-close and personal melee combat.
Any remaining goodwill Bloodstroke might have garnered for its stark art direction is soured by an economy that quickly turns against the player without an injection of cash towards in-app purchases. To be fair, upgrading a jian sword or a shotgun has an observable impact — but there’s no feasible (or fun) way to raise the currency needed to tackle the wildly difficult second half of the game unless you tap your wallet.
The bottom line. Bloodstroke pays lip service to John Woo’s bloody brand of action, but it lacks any grace, efficiency, or flair. Cool art style notwithstanding, Bloodstroke’s clumsy controls doom it from the start.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Limited color palette and comic book art style create a distinctive effect. Scoring system adds tension to otherwise straightforward combat.
Controls don’t work well. Second half of the game is too hard to realistically complete without in-app purchases or hours of boring grinding.