Silent Swords


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Silent Swords Hands-On

The stealth action genre, with all of its sneaking in the shadows and quiet one-hit kills, can become either very intense or very frustrating. One wrong move will turn your carefully planned assault into a fiasco. We think Silent Swords, an upcoming stealth action game from Oniric Games, will be just as unforgiving in its demand for ninja-like perfection, from the two levels we’ve played.

Silent Swords has already been submitted to Apple, so our guess would be that the two-level demo we played will be made available as a Lite version. It starts with a comic-book cutscene, sans dialogue, where a cute little ninja being held captive by Russkie-looking guards is accidentally freed by a mouse chewing on some wires.

To move your ninja, you tap the buttons at the bottom of the screen, twice to tiptoe forward a step, and more than twice to scuttle. These aren’t very responsive, though: You can’t hold down a button to run. Clearly the controls were meant for fine movement, not longer sprints.

Shaking the device will make your ninja jump, and while we usually prefer a button for jumping in most games, some of the timing-based movements like jumping from wall to wall past an alarm-triggering laser were made a bit more suspenseful by these motion controls. Frantically shaking to avoid detection is a real thrill.

When you’ve scuttled past the first few lasers and wall-jumped your way up, it’s time to dispatch your first guard. You do this by standing right next to them, and swiping in a pattern that glows in red at the bottom of the screen. The screen spatters with blood as your target silhouettes in white, a neat effect that minimizes the violence, but not the impact.

We also managed to pick up a shuriken, which gives you a one-hit kill from a distance with a single swipe in your guard’s direction. Later, we found a barrel, which lets you hide in plain sight as long as the guards don’t catch you moving.

Silent Swords seems heavier on puzzle-solving than action. While a few moments were suspenseful, like inching closer in a barrel towards an unsuspecting guard, most of the challenge is figuring out the order in which to take down the guards, and how to make it to the exit without tripping any alarms.

The two-level demo is very brief once you figure out the unconventional controls, but we’re looking forward to playing a lot more. Silent Swords should be available on the App Store very soon.

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Silent Swords Review

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.

Peek-a-boo.

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.

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