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With a laser pistol in one hand and a glowing sword in the other, charging through long corridors filled with killer robots, oozing slime creatures, and alien freaks sounds like a good time. It is — at least to an extent — in Echo Prime. This sci-fi brawler from Robot Entertainment (Hero Academy) is a high-energy tap-fest that balances smart controls and formidable challenge. The satisfaction that comes from cleaving through droves of foes in a successful run dampens during longer play sessions, however, due to intense repetition that'll leave your wrists aching.
Traveling through the cosmos puts you in danger frequently, as marauding ships full of galactic scum demand the attention of your weaponry. Rather than dispatching these jerks with a few well-placed photon torpedoes, you elect to zip aboard for a more hands-on approach. The hack, slash, and shoot combat tasks you with honing your quick reflexes, since rapidly tapping foes at a distance blasts them with your laser gun, while doing so at close range brings out the swords. Putting two fingers on the screen summons a quick shield to deflect blows if you time it properly, which adds a back-and-forth flow to exchanges that keeps things punchy. It's a system that works really well, but it gets harder to manage as the challenge ramps up, forcing you to be faster and more vigilant with your maneuvers.
Leveling up and purchasing better gear helps you in these battles, as do special abilities granted by collecting and equipping Echoes — power-granting friendly alien spirits that you can stack to enhance your fighting prowess and chances of survival on a given run. From healing and strength boosts to blasts of fire and electricity, these powers help a lot in battle, though they require strategic use due to cool-down times.
Echo Prime's campaign tells a decent tale of galactic conflict that gives you lots of opportunities to dive into its gauntlet-like stages. In short bursts, these romps make for some good frenetic fun, but as the challenge increases you have to grind a bit to keep up, which proves tiring — both mentally and physically, due to all of the frantic tapping.
The bottom line. Echo Prime offers plenty of energetic stages full of foes to blast and slice up, but its repetitive nature weighs down some of the more interesting elements.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Dynamic combat system keeps you moving. Echo powers are flexible and customizable. Lots of gear to unlock.
Grinding nature to the gameplay. Occasional visual hiccups.