Spiral Episode 1 Hands-On Preview

In the last year, iOS games like Lili and Horn have shown us that epic action-adventure games are, in fact, possible on a touchscreen. Soon, we may be able to add another single-word title to the list: Spiral, an intriguing, futuristic game with outstanding Unreal Engine graphics and animation.

We recently had a chance to play an early build of the first episode of Spiral. The first chapter of this episode begins with your character, Tempus, trying to regain consciousness. He’s in a brightly-lit aqueduct, with unique, monochromatic architecture all around him. As the game introduces you to the simple movement controls, a female voice urges Tempus to wake up while administering electrical shocks.

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The tutorial’s winding pathways are a good chance to get accustomed to Spiral’s control scheme. You can tap to move, double-tap to run, swipe to move the camera, or hold on the screen to activate a virtual joystick. While the game would occasionally misinterpret our taps as swipes, this is still an elegant way to fit two joysticks worth of movement and camera control onto the touchscreen.

When your character finally wakes up, it’s revealed that the voice he heard was his own A-VA, a sentient computer that’s part of Tempus’s own biology. She reminds him that if he dies, she dies too, so he’d better be more careful. Tempus finds himself on a train, where he had collapsed just 30 seconds ago. We have a feeling that Tempus’s bouts of unconsciousness will factor into the game’s storyline more in the future.

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On the train, you’re ordered to meet with a police captain in another car. You’ll have a chance to speak to a few policemen on the scene before an explosion rocks the train, and you realize that there are armed mercenaries attempting a heist from the roof.

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When you get to the roof, you have a chance to learn Spiral’s unique combat mechanics, which are mostly timing-based. Standing still will allow you to block incoming hits, so spamming the attack button isn’t always a good strategy. You can tap on enemies to fight them with mystically-summoned swords, or hold onto Tempus for an area blast. Later, you’ll have to take down a helicopter with a magical handgun while tapping on the incoming missiles.

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Through all this, we were very impressed by Spiral’s visuals. Tempus is a well-designed and expressive main character, and his interactions with A-VA seem well-acted and scripted. Combat is especially fun to watch, since Tempus summons all of his weapons out of thin air, and his eyes glow blue as he dispatches enemy soldiers with a flourish.

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Spiral looks like the kind of original iOS game that we think will stand out on the App Store. It has that rare combination of an intriguing story, cutting-edge graphics, and thoughtful touchscreen controls. We’re told that Spiral Episode 1 will be available on the App Store around June, and will launch for $4.99.

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