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Infinity Blade II might surprise you if you didn't play the original iOS smash. It looks like a traditional role-playing game (RPG), with armored swordsmen, ancient castles, and imposing monsters, plus stat grinding and leveling mechanics that are vital to success. But behind its amazing, technology-pushing graphics and Tolkien-esque trappings, Infinity Blade II may not be the game you expect. It's basically Punch-Out!!, but with swords, shields, and swipes instead of boxing gloves and button presses.
If you did play the first game, you know exactly what you're getting into, as Infinity Blade II largely plays the same. Its one-on-one duels require fleet fingers and precise timing as you dodge right or left, block with your shield, and strike with your blade when your opponent is dazed. Swordplay consists of quick swipes across the touchscreen, with the angle of attack reflecting the direction your finger moves in. You'll patiently observe each beastly enemy as it runs through its handful of attacks, defending and parrying as needed while waiting for the crucial break when you can furiously slash your way to victory.
The structure is also similar – you'll fight your way to a showdown with the mighty God-King, cycling through multiple incarnations of your immortal warrior and growing more powerful with each bloodline. It's not just a rehash, though: it's a much larger game, with more areas, enemy types, and upgradable gear, as well as two-handed and dual-wielded weapons that lightly update the combat. You'll retrace your steps with each bloodline, slowly fighting your way through the same locations. As in recent console favorite Dark Souls, that repetition is far from boring, as the weight of each bloodline contributes to an increasingly monolithic history.
That circular nature is just one of the ways Infinity Blade II plays with RPG conventions. You don't just level up your character, but also every piece of equipment you wear, from your weapons to your armor and magic ring. This system forces you to experiment with new gear, as once a sword or helmet is mastered, you lose out on a portion of each battle's experience points.
Unfortunately, much of the mystery of the first game is lost. At the start, the story is very much in the foreground, replacing the ambient storytelling that added a hint of elegance to the original. Dialogue is no longer just atmosphere, as the deep, unintelligible grumbling of Infinity Blade has been replaced with recognizable English. It's not much, but what is present is usually either generic pseudo-mystical claptrap or stock hero banter, with voice acting that ranges from bland to overwrought. The gibberish and subtitles of the first game are sorely missed.
The bottom line. Despite a few missteps with its framing, Infinity Blade II generally does what a sequel should: nicely expand upon the excellent original while preserving its essence. If Infinity Blade proved mobile devices can go toe-to-toe (or shield-to-sword) with consoles and PC gaming, Infinity Blade II shows there's still power to be tapped in our iPhones and iPads.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 3.2 or later
Unbelievable visuals for an iOS game. Intuitive and responsive touch controls. Addictive leveling system.
Use of English instead of first game's unintelligible grunts diminishes its mysterious atmosphere.