When Assassin’s Creed burst on to the scene for consoles back in late 2007, it was praised for its sandbox-style gameplay and the high level of interactivity with the environment. Following up the wall-crawling hit and coinciding with heavy online promotion for Assassin’s Creed 2, Gameloft brings Assassin’s Creed – Altair’s Chronicles to the iPhone.
Though it does a great job capturing the spirit of Assassin’s Creed, the iPhone title is clearly limited in translating many aspects of Altair’s talents — namely platforming. Along with a number of glitches in this first build, it may be worth waiting a bit before shelling out the $9.99 price tag this title carries.
Described as a prequel to the main title, the iPhone version takes the title assassin, Altair, and puts him on a quest to find a chalice before the invading Crusaders, the Templars, in a Middle Eastern setting. Rather than opening up the world sandbox style, giving free reign across the environment, this version is a straight-up platformer on rails. There is no freedom to choose, just a single path that is presented in obvious fashion. It seems a bit unambitious, especially for fans of the console edition. The strategy is reduced to staying on the rooftops and following the designated path. Fall off and soldiers attack you. And repeat.
Control is handled through touch buttons for actions, like attacking, jumping and pickpocketing, with an omnidirectional d-pad for movement. The d-pad works well enough but can be a little tricky in areas that require a little precision or fine touch. Combat is largely button mashing with some timing at play. With no ability to freely climb up a building, ladders are plentiful, and a grappling hook is thrown in for good measure.
Assassin’s Creed does a great job with the minigames, though they are limited to pickpocket and interrogation. Pickpocket is basically “Operation,” requiring Altair to take an object without touching anything else in the bag or the sides. Interrogation is timing-based, just touching multiple pressure points when they turns green. Assassinations can be considered a bit of a minigame themselves, as they require sneaking undetected to the target. It’s executed with a single button-press, with the screen blurring white in slow-motion — It’s pretty cool to see and do. These minigames, as fun as they are, happen all too infrequently when compared to the rather mundane platforming of the main game.
There were a number of glitches we encountered on our playthrough. Most were movement-based, with Altair getting stuck at random spots on the map. During combat, he would sometimes get stuck against the wall, unable to defend himself or even move. Either die or reload a checkpoint. During one particular boss battle, the large circus axe-man got his weapon stuck in the ground — the strategy is to kick him as he tries to pull it out — but the axe was still in the ground after he “pulled it out,” and he proceeded to kill Altair from a distance with what we can only assume is an air guitar (axe, get it?). There were also several framerate drops while platforming, that, while minor, were enough to throw off our timing.
There’s no doubt that the atmosphere of Assassin’s Creed is well-presented. Production values are quite high, and there’s a good amount of game time with this particular title. But fans of the original console version will find this mobile edition lacking. Not that anything too ambitious should have been expected, but for the high price tag and all the glitches, it’s worth waiting for a corrective update or a price drop.