Shadow Guardian Hands-On Preview

As similar as Gameloft’s upcoming Shadow Guardian might be to Uncharted, let’s not forget that Uncharted stole its platforming from Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia. So who’s to say who’s borrowing from whom? The important thing is that by the end of the month, the App Store will have one incredibly polished 3D platformer with intense shootouts in exotic locations.

Just like in the Uncharted series, you play as a rugged, handsome young adventurer who’s handy with a gun and smart enough to know when to dive for cover. Jason Call is a former war correspondent trying to track down an artifact called the Prima Materia. This artifact is also being sought after by mercenaries, who provide the perfect faceless evildoers to shoot down without feeling guilty about it.

The cover mechanics work very well for an iPhone game. A context-sensitive button will appear when you can take cover, and you can aim, blind-fire, and vault over the wall like in console third-person shooters. The platforming segments we had a bit more trouble with, because you can only jump in certain hotspots, and must locate which walls you’re supposed to climb, instead of being in a wide-open environment.

One thing we’ve noticed about Gameloft games is that they often have a floating arrow that tells you where to go. That’s not present in Shadow Guardian– instead, it’s been replaced with a much more subtle red circle on the ground. It’s possible to get lost without the hand-holding, but it seems to be more authentic when you’re exploring ruins and tombs.

Our first level was a brief tutorial, where Jason has to evade his captors, but the next level set in Egypt seemed to let the player have more freedom. The visuals look quite good, with interesting lighting that glinted off of stone columns and the characters’ skin and clothing. Shadow Guardian uses last year’s Avatar iPhone game engine, but with four times the number of polygons.

Some of the more intriguing levels in the game include India, an underwater temple, and Antarctica, where we hope Jason brought something warmer than a T-shirt to wear. Shadow Guardian hits the App Store later this month.

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