Phoenix Spirit Hands-On Preview

Spearhead Entertainment, the makers of God of War/ Match-3 mashup Fall of Atlantis, have a new iPhone game due out in the next few days. It’s called Phoenix Spirit, and many gamers will be pleased to learn that it’s in the style of the sprawling “Metroidvania” adventure games.

With Konami’s first Castlevania iPhone game being a puzzle title, there’s a definite gap in the exploration-heavy adventure genre first popularized by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. In Phoenix Spirit, you play as a woodland creature who flies using the accelerometer, exploring a vast maze and discovering new abilities that will open up more of the map. We thought this critter bore a resemblance to Rocky J. Squirrel from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

Relatively soon, you’ll gain the ability to “cleanse” the infected woodlands by shooting rays of sunlight. This can be used to open doorways, release powerups from plant pods, and fight enemies, which appear to be some sort of flying fish. After exploring about a third of the map, we also discovered a boost ability that lets your spirit power through gusts of wind that block off certain areas.

You control your spirit almost entirely through tilt, but you will also have to gain speed by pressing a “dive” button from time to time. Similar to the iPhone flying game Glyder, diving builds up speed, but you’re flying through 2D environments like in the old Sega Saturn game, Nights Into Dreams.

Phoenix Spirit certainly has a beautiful aesthetic, with haunting music and plenty of exploration. However, we didn’t see much variation in the environment from our initial time with it. One thing Symphony of the Night did well was keep the environments varied, but Phoenix Spirit appears to be one giant forest with a similar background throughout.

Phoenix Spirit should be available on May 17, and we’ll try to bring you a full review of this intriguing title shortly afterward.

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