Kerosene Games has accomplished something truly special with Bladeslinger. They’ve crafted an original, console-quality mobile action game that combines gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, stunning graphics, and a compelling story. Our main complaint about this demonic-themed Western is that it introduces us to a mysterious new hero, but falls short of letting us face down his final nemesis.
It’s for this reason that we’re glad this is only Episode 1, and not the full saga. Bladeslinger Ep. 1 begins with a bio-mechanical cowboy named William Glaston, who fights with a combination of a robotic left arm and a hybrid gun/sword on his hip. When he arrives off the train in Hammer’s Peak, he finds that the townsfolk have been transformed into horrific demons. William spends the first episode fighting through town to try to locate his brother, who may have some information about what misfortunes befell the town.
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Although the story is intriguing, most of the game is made up of combat encounters every few feet. You’re constantly bombarded by packs of demons, who drop in from the movie-backdrop scenery or appear behind boulders, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. William is uniquely equipped to handle them, and the game gives you multiple options for dispatching bad guys.
You can tap on a creature to fire your six-shooter, swipe with one finger to fillet them with your sword, or swipe with two fingers to deliver a mean, metallic left hook. To move, you can use one finger to run, two fingers to look around, or tap on the screen with two fingers to roll. It’s a remarkably polished control scheme that will rarely have you feeling boxed in or overwhelmed, since the camera locks on automatically to your targets. If enemies are standing off-camera, you can tap on icons on the side of the screen to bring them into view.
William can also perform a devastating finishing move when enemies are stunned. By punching them to initiate a rune-tracing minigame, you can cap off your assault with style. It’s just another fine detail that accentuates the constant action and keeps the gameplay feeling varied.
It won’t be long before you’re performing Devil May Cry-style acrobatics, which look gorgeous and run very smoothly. Bladeslinger might be the best-looking Unity Engine game we’ve played (on par with Dead Trigger), with incredibly detailed scenery and characters. The demonic runes around town give off an eerie glow, and you can see the detail in every tumbleweed or wooden beam.
When we previewed the game in the Canadian App Store, Bladeslinger was a free download, but with some unbalanced aspects. The rune shards that you had to collect were very rare, and upgrades were expensive. Now that the game is a paid download, the overall experience is much smoother, and you’ll upgrade William at a faster rate. This definitely helps cut down on the repetition in the game. Not only do you fight many of the same enemies again and again, but the game can be replayed on three different difficulty levels. Having constant access to new abilities prevents Bladeslinger from feeling monotonous.
Despite the repetition, which is alleviated somewhat in this final version, Bladeslinger is an ideal combination of disparate ideas. Between the combat and storyline, the upgrades and action, Bladeslinger never fails to keep you moving forward with growing anticipation. Like the mutated bartender who you face in the second chapter, Bladeslinger takes a well-worn theme and distorts it into something thrilling and new. We can’t wait for the second episode to find out what happens next.