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Thursday, January 21, 2010
iPhonetunes review: Spartacus Blood and Sand
iPhonetunes review: Spartacus Blood and Sand

iPhone games

In most of the civilized world it’s illegal to pay for blood or organs… that is unless you are paying $4.99 in the app store for this blood spattering festival of disemboweling fun. This is the iPhone tie in to the exciting new Starz series that premiers Friday January 22nd. The series carries a mature rating as it attempts an honest and gritty depiction of the era. Well, the game carries on several of the bloodiest elements that the pilot episode showcased (available for free viewing at starz.com) onto your iPhone and almost splatters the red liquid of life off the screen and onto your fingers.

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Appearance / Graphics - 5
I watched the pilot episode at starz.com to round out this game review and I can tell you - this game delivers amazing realism in the Spartacus Blood and Sand world. The blood that freely flows on the TV in the first two and a half minutes of the episode are mimicked almost EXACTLY in game play. The characters you choose to play and those you fight are represented AMAZINGLY accurately from the show. Yet - I started playing this game before watching the initial episode and can tell you - this game SQUARELY stands on it’s own. It certainly has feel comprised of sounds and experiences that harken back to button mashing arcade blockbusters Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat - complete with killing moves. Ohh - and every hack with the sword, mace or mallet leaves a nice spattering of on screen blood!

iPhone games | Spartacus Blood and SandiPhone games | Spartacus Blood and Sand

Features - 4
Single player campaign (although pretty short), quick play mode and multiplayer mode gives this game a pretty high degree of flexibility in playing. Additionally, there’s a long list of functional combo moves that it takes some time to master, partly because of the complexity and partly because of the controls (more on that in the next section). The option menu only lets you mess with sounds in the game - I wholly expected some fun in there - like blood levels. Overall, the number of features here is on par with what you expect for this type of game - no more - no less.

As for WiFi multiplayer - I actually had a chance to try this out when a kid in a coffee shop walked over to me (while I was playing) and asked if I wanted to play him.  I won’t retell the slaughter and carnage his pubescent skills brought down on me - but I can tell you two things - networked play is slick and works really well and he also shared the concerns in the next section.

Playability/Emotion - 3
This is a tough category for an hack and slash game to really rise to a perfect score on. Really - do you want an emotional attachment to your character that is leaving sprays of blood all over your small touch sensitive screen? Emotionally - I’m cool with the game. It fits the tv show and the genera really well and it is believable from that perspective, in reality - the arena fighter can’t possibly hold that much blood. As for controlling the hacking and the bloodmaking, well, I’m not going to condemn this game to the gladiator pit - but I am going to be clear. I think there is a fair amount of room for improvement on the controls. Really the key to this sort of game is controller responsiveness and the ability to execute the button based combos for more gruesome attacks and higher damage. While the screen never showed frame rate issues on my 3Gs - I was quite often left feeling like the controls were not responding to my taps. Sure, it’s easy to blame the software if the ONLY time I experienced that sensation was when I was the target of the hacking and slashing…  but there were many times where I had the upper hand in a brawl and felt as if the controls were preventing my accelerated bloodletting of my opponents (to be clear Jake, I never felt like I had the upper hand when fighting you - and thanks for your review input).

iPhone games | Spartacus Blood and SandiPhone games | Spartacus Blood and Sand

Value - 4
Can anyone really put a price tag on the satisfaction of hacking your opponent into multiple chinks in a fountain of bloody goodness? For the iTunes store price of $4.99 - I think they tried… and if you are a fan of blood and hacker slasher games… and are interested in the show on Starz… well, I think you have a winner here. For me the two biggest issues overall were the controls and the rather short nature of the storyline play mode. The visual nature of the game and the tactile vibration of a pummeling was very cool. I don’t know if this is the best hack and slash game out there but it is a very visual and solid entry.

At the height of Rome - the gladiator was the movie star. This game uniquely lets fans of the new series on Starz be part of the drama and unfolding saga that is Spartacus Blood and Sand. I’m really impressed with the tight weaving of this interactive component with actual show footage for cut scenes and the level of brutality the game portrays. Certainly this game isn’t for everyone due to the blood and violent life ending moves… but, then again, neither were the gladiator games of old. So - whether you swear your allegiance to Rome or to Sparta - you can expect to do battle with this solid game.

Summary:
Features - 5.0
Appearance - 4.0
Usability - 3.0
Value - 4.0
Overall: 4.0 stars our of 5

NOTE: Artificial Life provided a licensed copy of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” for this review.


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