Kroll is a fantasy-themed beat-’em-up where you play as a club-wielding shaman in search of his soul. Instead of the usual months of silent contemplation, Kroll’s spiritual journey involves jogging through amazing 3D environments and bashing hundreds of enemies into goo. Kroll definitely offers a nice demonstration of the iPhone’s graphics horsepower. Unfortunately, the game’s glamorous presentation is not enough to conceal its lack of breadth and depth–there’s just no way this extra-short adventure is worth eight bucks.
Kroll plays very much like the classic side-scrolling arcade game Kung Fu Master. The objective is to walk through a level from left to right, while enemies come at you from either side. You have two basic attacks at your disposal: a fast thrusting attack and a slower swinging attack. As you dole out damage, you fill up a gauge that allows you to perform a ground smash attack that hits enemies in both directions. There are three chapters in the game, each with a number of smaller sections or rooms. Each section typically concludes with a miniboss fight, and the chapters end against gargantuan final bosses.
You move and execute attacks by touching one of three touch buttons on either side of the screen–the right-hand buttons move and attack right, and the left-hand buttons do the same on the left. Though moving and attacking in this way might feel awkward initially, the controls end up being very easy to use. The final boss fights are managed in a completely different manner. These encounters unfold as a cutscene; you have to quickly tap the indicated areas of the screen as the action plays out.
There are only a few types of enemies in Kroll, and their variation is almost purely aesthetic. This adds to the general feeling that most of the developer’s time was spent making Kroll look nice, and the game itself is a bit of an afterthought. Similar games feature jumping, high and low attacks, blocking, and projectile dodging; Kroll’s omission of these gameplay basics is disappointing. In fact, the gameplay is so simple that it almost feels like a rhythm game, rather than an action game. The gameplay highlights are probably the minibosses, who can present a real challenge and require some actual thought to beat. They are far more interesting than the final boss fights, which are fun to watch the first time through, but lack challenge. It’s too easy to memorize their sequences.
Ultimately, Kroll seems like it was made by a talented team of artists, animators, and musicians–along with one poor sap who was responsible for all the gameplay. Most players will be able to see all the content in the game in under half an hour; you can try a higher difficulty level, but its content will be the same. If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, and you want to show off some really awesome-looking graphics on your iPhone, Kroll is worth checking out. Otherwise, you should probably hold out for a price drop.