'Infinity Blade II' Carves Out a Plot This Time Around
"Infinity Blade II" keeps most of the original's satisfying slashing action intact, as well as its strange array of grotesque opponents and detailed scenery. The world the player explores, however, has been expanded in this second edition, as has the game's story line. However, I missed the ability to sell off old armor and weapons when buying new equipment.
I never beat the original "Infinity Blade." I liked the game, thought it was worth the money, spent many a joyful moment slashing away at a never-ending parade of uglies. But come on, that game really was kind of hard. You're trying to kill a God King, and that's not an easy thing to do, even for a thirtieth-generation sword-swinger.
Also, the game was more than a little repetitive.
Rebirth after rebirth, there you are, storming the same castle, following the same limited set of pathways to the same endpoint. The monsters, of course, were rarely repeated, and each was a great, grotesque variation on a nightmarish design motif that seemed to cross-breed "Pan's Labyrinth," Gwar, the Krampus, and Scandinavian black metal album art. The battle interface was fun and satisfying, though adequately challenging, and the inventory variety kept things interesting. There just wasn't a whole lot in the way of a plot.
That changes with "Infinity Blade II."
The game continues the saga of the original protagonist, fresh off his victory against the God King and finally bringing about vengeance for his father (and his father, and his father, for that matter). Now our hero is on the hunt for the Worker of Secrets. Finding the guy won't be easy, and you will die several times in the process. Afterward, though, instead of leaving it up to your descendants to finish the dirty work, you'll wake up in what looks like some kind of factory, only to relaunch your assault a few months later against slightly tougher bad guys.
As for the details of the plot ... well, they're a little spotty. During cut scenes, I wasn't always sure whether the game was trying to be mysterious or whether it was making references to things I either don't remember or never learned in the original game. But it does serve to expand the number of places you'll visit as you play "Infinity Blade II," and this larger world is a welcome addition.
The game's mechanics are kept mainly intact: Tap a blue circle to go to the next screen, fast-forward through the sweeping landscape shots if you've seen them before (and despite the more complex map, you'll see them many, many times), but don't miss the bags of money and treasure chests lying around, open for the taking.
Engaging an enemy involves the familiar set of parries, dodges and attacks, though a bonus system has been added in which more experience points can be earned by defeating an enemy in a certain way. I can't be sure, but I feel like the interface is also a little more forgiving in terms of pulling off an effective parry defense.
Just like in the original, the landscapes, castles and scenery in this sequel look great. Switch back to the old game, though, and it's clear "Infinity Blade II's" designers were able to put yet another level of polish on the imagery.
The character control interface is also pleasingly redesigned, though it mostly works the same way as before. Each time you defeat an enemy, you gain experience points, which will eventually take you up to another skill level. Each time you level up, you can assign more power to each of your particular skills.
You also gain experience in the specific items you used during your last battle, eventually "mastering" them.
This interface is also where you equip your character with additional armor, weapons, magic rings and other items. This time, weapons are divided into light and heavy categories, as well as a dual category that lets your character wield identical weapons in each hand, foregoing a shield.
All these items are purchased with gold, which you find lying around unattended and earn by slicing up bad guys. You may also find various gems on your quest, which you can affix to items to give them additional powers.
Although the dual-weapons concept is an interesting addition, the buyable items in "Infinity Blade II" seem a little limited. The first game featured an entertaining mix of scary midieval garb and ridiculous costumes and weapons. You could go into battle wielding a balloon sword or a giant index finger if you wanted to. No such clowning around in "Infinity Blade II," unless it's some kind of unlockable or add-on content.
Also missing: Weapon sell-back. I wanted to upgrade my sword, but I found there was no way to get a little gold back by selling my old weapon. As far as I can see, it can't be done -- you just have to hang on to it.
Obviously, this means improving your character is a little more difficult to do using only the gold you earn and find. That leaves one more means of putting money in your character's pocket: Taking it out of yours. Just like the original, "Infinity Blade II" will load up your character with lucre in exchange for $1, $5, $20 or $50 real-world bucks, payable through the App Store.
Was eliminating weapon sell-backs Chair Entertainment's way to get more people to buy in-game money? I don't know. It's not like in-game sales are dishonest -- after all, it may be the only thing that keeps games like this profitable and worth making. But another review on this site, one for "Blood & Glory" published Monday, left the reviewer wondering just how hard one would have to work to beat the game without buying in-app money.
"Blood & Glory" is free, so maybe the developers of that one would be crazy not to require players to spend something in order to see everything the game has to offer. "Infinity Blade II" costs $7, which is semi-premium pricing when it comes to iPhone/iPad games.
After several hours of experience with "Infinity Blade II," I'm still having fun with it and earning enough to keep grabbing ever-more-lethal weapons -- though I don't know whether I'll eventually hit an impasse where I simply can't go on without a $20 gold infusion.