Samurai II: Vengeance Review

Samurai: Way of the Warrior’s buttonless control scheme seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, what better way to show off the iPhone’s gaming capabilities than to mimic slashes with swipes on the screen? But this control scheme just didn’t hold up over the entire course of the game. We’re happy to say that Samurai II’s new controls earn this action game sequel a scroll saying ‘Most Improved.’

Samurai II: Vengeance is a joy to play for many reasons. One of these is the amazing graphics, which provide an extraordinary level of depth and beauty to the environments, even compared to the first Samurai game. Set in a fantasy Japan with demons and floating castles, Samurai II uses cel-shaded graphics that looks unlike anything else on the iPhone. They are especially gorgeous on a Retina display device.

It’s like David and Goliath, but with samurai swords.

The character models and animation are much improved as well, with a lot of detail put into every enemy’s weapon or article of clothing. And when you start hacking and slashing, you’ll occasionally slice foes in half, which makes a sickening wet sound. You’ll see archers stare in amazement as their bow is cut in half, moments before their torso separates from their waist. And when you decapitate a bandit, their straw hat goes flying, still attached to their head. As fans of bloody good gaming, we can’t say enough how great it is the way that the visuals and audio heighten the startling violence in Samurai II.

Besides the visuals, the controls received a major upgrade as well. You now have a virtual D-pad and two attack buttons, plus a dodge button that lets your samurai roll out of harm’s way. By tapping out combinations of Xs and Os, you can deliver hugs and kisses of death that will become more complex and powerful as you advance through the game. The new controls could be favorably compared to God of War or its iPhone counterpart, Hero of Sparta.

Someone doesn’t want us going this way.

Hero of Sparta 2 is actually the game we thought about the most while playing Samurai II. Both are extremely linear action brawlers, where you’ll constantly advance to a closed arena and defeat a certain number of enemies before moving ahead through the gorgeous scenery. But Samurai II’s environmental puzzles are much more dumbed-down. The most you’ll ever have to do is flip a switch to activate an elevator, or roll out of the path of swinging spiked clubs.

Samurai II’s seven chapters will take an experienced action gamer about two or three hours to complete, but there’s also an endless Dojo mode with Game Center high scores and an extra hard mode for the campaign. Some of the later levels are truly challenging, since there is no way to heal in the middle of an arena fight.

The dreaded whirlybird maneuver.

Samurai II: Vengeance is better than the original by leaps and bounds, and we wonder if this series could sustain online multiplayer at some point, now that the basic combat mechanics have been perfected. Besides more complex levels and a greater variety of enemies to slaughter, we can’t think of any other ways to improve what the team at Madfinger Games has accomplished with this sequel. If you love challenging, violent combat in your games, you owe it to yourself to download Samurai II.

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