Like many other Gameloft mega-hits, Hero of Sparta II has more than a few traits in common with a big-name console franchise. Just like in God of War, you play as a blood-frenzied Spartan whose ongoing feud with the gods forces him to face mythological beasts and colossal bosses. Hero of Sparta II is probably the closest we’ll get to a real God of War game on the iPhone.
God of War’s incredible quality is difficult to match, but Hero of Sparta II puts up a good fight. The story is almost completely forgettable, but the important thing is that your hero Argos ends up traveling to several interesting and beautiful-looking environments. The most impressive of these is a rocky mountain area, where sphinx statues from The Neverending Story will shoot laser beams at you from their eyes.
Stickin’ it to the man.
You’re swung pendulum-like between action sequences, where you have to brutally hack apart creatures like minotaurs and blue-skinned warriors (perhaps left over from Gameloft’s Avatar game), and simple environmental puzzles. Puzzles never get more complicated than hitting an action button and performing a quick series of alternating taps on the screen, but the combat is much more satisfying.
Instead of cluttering the screen with multiple buttons for different attacks, Gameloft has come up with an ingenious workaround. One attack button handles all your moves, but you can slide it up, down, or to the side to perform smashes and launch enemies into the air.
You’ll also gain a total of five different weapons along the way, and though we preferred our trusty sword most of the time, it’s fun to experiment with weapons like the razor-sharp Icarus wings or double-bladed spear. You’ll even find a pair of tethered boxing gloves that would make Kratos feel right at home.
Quit with the waterworks, would ya?
It may not be fair to expect boss fights on the same level as God of War’s, but in Hero of Sparta II they tend to be downright anticlimactic. One Pegasus-back escape from a water elemental feels more like Canabalt than God of War. You’ll rarely fight bosses yourselves, as many are dispatched in cutscenes.
When you compare it to just about any other action game on the iPhone, Hero of Sparta II is a marvel. It looks absolutely stunning, and ran smoothly on our third-generation iPod Touch. The action is continually varied, and you’ll almost never perform the same platforming or puzzle task twice. There’s even an endless Arena level accessible as a departure from the main adventure, if you just want to chain together combos and upgrade your weapons.
It’s great to see the iPhone handle a cinematic action game like Hero of Sparta II, and Gameloft’s dedication to polish and sheen is immediately apparent. This ambitious title makes great use of the iDevice hardware, and will keep you playing happily until the end.