The new Silent Swords update adds five new missions and addresses our main complaint about the game: its funky control scheme. The bad news is that the new control option isn’t any better than the old one.
On the plus side, you don’t have to tap the directional arrows over and over to run. Now you can hold them down to walk, or tap and then hold to run. But don’t start cheering yet, because now button placement has become a problem. Instead of mimicking every controller we’ve ever used and placing the directional arrows on the left and the jump button on the right, the developers decided to leave the directional arrows on opposite sides of the screen and add a jump button next to each. This setup does not feel natural in the least, and most players will want to stick to the original controls, which are still available.
The new levels are a lot of fun, though. They’re extremely difficult, but that shouldn’t be a problem for players who have mastered the original game.
Your character in Silent Swords is an adorable little ninja. The story starts as he begins his escape from a military compound, where he’s been held for an indeterminate period of time. He looks harmless enough as he melds into the shadows, but when one of the compound’s guards wanders past, our adorable hero hacks him up in an astonishing (yet curiously adorable) display of brutality.
Yes, our little blades expert is a badass, but he’s not invincible. Far from it– he can be taken down by a single gunshot. And boy, do these guards have itchy trigger fingers. You’re dead the moment they see you.
The gameplay in Silent Swords borrows much from the Metal Gear Solid series. The goal of each screen-sized stage is to navigate the obstacles, find the key, and reach the exit without being seen. Along the way, you can execute guards, hide in lockers, jump on walls, and tip-toe around in barrels.
No matter what you’re doing (running, jumping, standing still), you’re invisible to the guards as long as you’re not under a light. Naturally, lights are placed exactly where you’d least like them to be, so you’ll spend a lot of time studying the guards’ movements before stepping foot out of the shadows. Besides guards, you also have to worry about lasers and wall-mounted mines that go off if you move too quickly past them.
Unfortunately, until you get used to the controls, it might seem like you’re fighting against them as well. The developers opted for a decidedly unintuitive method of moving your ninja. Instead of using an onscreen D-pad or tilt controls, you’ll be furiously tapping arrows in the lower left- and right-hand corners of the screen. To move right, you have to keep on tapping the right arrow. Holding it down to move is not an option. The faster you tap, the faster you move. This takes some getting used to, and it becomes tiresome by the third or fourth time you have to traverse the entire length of the screen.
Another control quirk is that to jump, you flick the iDevice toward you. This isn’t as annoying as tapping to move, but it does seem kind of silly and pointless. Don’t get us wrong: we’re all for using clever iDevice-specific controls in games when they make sense (like in Spider, for instance). But in Silent Swords they feel forced.
That’s gonna be a headshot.
On the plus side, it’s fun to make a kill. When an enemy is near enough, onscreen commands show you a series of swipes. Swipe your finger accordingly, and the bad guy dies. Throwing a ninja star is a pleasure, too. To do it, tap on your character and drag a path toward an enemy. When you release your finger, the star goes flying and the enemy is slain. Very satisfying.
The graphics and sound really shine in this game, but it it should be stated that every enemy looks exactly the same. It would have been interesting to see some new enemy types, or at very least, enemies with different skins. That said, the action in this game can be quite visceral. You’ll feel much like a silent assassin as you navigate through the stages, offing guards and bolting through cones of light.
Some levels provide hefty challenge and require creative thinking to pass. The ah-ha moment when the solution clicks in your head is pleasant and well deserved. When you beat the game (which takes several hours) you’re rewarded with an alternate costume, but not much reason to play through again. All the same, with its excellent production values, engaging gameplay, and sense of immersion, we had a lot of fun with Silent Swords. If it offered an alternate control scheme, it may well be a Must Have.