Bladeslinger Hands-On Preview

Bladeslinger first caught our attention over a year ago, and it inspired us to reach out to the developer for a detailed Q and A. Unfortunately, the Unity-powered, Western-themed combat game was delayed soon after, and has been in development for nearly all of 2012. Now that the game is out in Canada, we crossed the App Store border to check it out and give you our hands-on impressions.

Many great things stand out in Bladeslinger from the moment you start playing. First of all, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with Retina-enhanced graphics that outshine the stellar visuals of similar Western-themed games like Gameloft’s Six-Guns. Your character, William Glaston, looks every bit the classic cowboy, with a few exceptions: His six-shooter is attached to a long machete-like sword, and his left arm appears to be some kind of steampunk mechanical appendage.

We were also highly impressed by the game’s movement controls, which give you full range when exploring the deserted town of Hammer’s Peak. There’s definitely no Infinity Blade-style taps to move between locations. In Bladeslinger, you drag with one finger on the screen to move William, and use two to move the camera. When you’re in combat, you can tap on the enemy to fire your guns, or slash to lunge forward and use your machete. You can also tap with two fingers to roll, hold with two fingers to block, or swipe with two fingers to deliver a solid haymaker, which will also trigger special finishing move animations.

The combination of gunplay and melee reminded us a bit of Devil May Cry, though the action isn’t quite as fast and fluid as it is in that series. Fighting multiple enemies can get a little clunky, so you can tap on onscreen indicators to automatically face your opponents.

The third feature that really impressed us is that Bladeslinger is a free download, even though it looks and feels every bit like a premium iOS game. Your character will earn gold from killing the mutated townsfolk who attack him with pitchforks and shovels, and you can use that gold to buy health potions, special abilities, and character upgrades.

As the game progresses through six chapters, the enemies get tougher, so you’ll have to be extremely skillful, replay encounters, or just pay a buck or two for some in-game currency. There are also collectible spirit shards that let you unlock really nice items, but those have to be collected throughout the town, or bought instantly with in-app purchase.

Between the stellar graphics, controls, and free download, we highly recommend downloading Bladeslinger if you have an iTunes account for the Canadian App Store. It takes familiar Western tropes, like the tired old cowboy returning home, or the dignified saloon keeper drying glasses at the bar, and gives them a crazy sci-fi and fantasy twist. For example, that bartender drying glasses has mutated into a giant, angry beetle-like demon. We’ll have a full review of Bladeslinger when it hits the U.S. App Store, hopefully soon.

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