Updated, optimized ports of games from other handheld consoles are in no way a new concept for the iPhone. Assassin’s Creed 2 Discovery follows the first game in that it was originally on the DS, but brought over with some iPhone-specific features. We enjoyed the time we spent with this console tie-in, but it does fall a bit short of our top score.
Instead of the 3D side-scrolling action of the first portable Assassin’s Creed, Discovery is played in run-and-jump platformer style. By means of a horizontal slider, you control shadowy killer Ezio Auditore da Firenze as he sweeps through towns and over rooftops at blazing speeds, assassinating unaware enemies along the way.
Taste my steel!
Depending on how far you drag the slider, Ezio moves with variable speeds. Running into objects and walls allow you to climb them. The rest of your work is done by pressing action buttons for sword-based combat, interacting with the environment, and throwing daggers.
Controlling Ezio felt fluent and swift, because AC2 Discovery excels at creating a sense of speed. The super-smooth frame rate and quick animations never failed to excite us. However, this immersion is often broken through combat, assassination scenes, and other obstacles. Due to the fact that the majority of levels include enemies, there are far fewer chances to experience the soaring sense of speed than we would have liked.
Discovery has three types of missions: normal, chase, and stealth. Normal levels usually have the most variety and can be explored at your leisure. The tasks in these vary from consulting with allies to simply reaching the end of the level by any means possible.
Ezio training for a marathon.
Chase missions come in two varieties. The first is an escape where constant streams of arrows fly behind you. Ezio must avoid fighting with guards in order to escape alive. The other chase is a race against a rogue whose speed matches your own. In order to outrun her, you must find an alternative route over the buildings. Stealth missions are much like normal missions, but if you are seen four times, it’s game over. These tend to be extremely challenging, perhaps too much so, breaking the level-to-level difficulty balance.
The main campaign in Discovery is set across eight ‘memory blocks’, or chapters, each containing about five missions. Playing through all this generally takes about four to five hours. Replay value is added through Animus Hacks, which are a collection of cheats, character skins, and difficulty levels that can be bought with Synch points, the in-game currency awarded at the end of each level. Achievements are also present if you need to feel compelled to beat the game completely.
Discovery’s story isn’t anything to write home about, but if you’re familiar with the console game, it does provide a nice side-story. Ezio is recruited to help free his fellow assassins from their captors, and in the process discovers a Templar plan that must be stopped. The cutscenes include borderline cheesy voice acting and must be tapped through, which made watching them a bit tedious.
Ezio: The Spider-Man of his time.
While Discovery runs smoothly, it comes at the price of the graphics. The 3D models themselves aren’t bad, but the lack of textures in the environment made them feel bland. On top of this, while you travel through a variety of cities with distinct cultures, almost all of them look the same.
Also in need of a graphical revamp are the menus, which are clunky and unattractive. While we understand that the resolution of the in-game graphics may have been toned down to improve the speed, having such basic menus made the game feel void of any last-minute polish.
If you enjoy the Assassin’s Creed games on console, we think this iPhone game will appeal to you. The recognizable cast of characters, unlockable bonus art, and story all complement the console game. If you don’t fall into that category but are looking for a fresh platformer, Discovery is still a solid choice.