Traditionally the iPhone and iPad and in fact most mobile OS’s have taken well to the beat ’em up genre. Infinity Blade, whilst not a traditional side scrolling fighter, was for a long time the spearhead of the App Store, we’ve also had excellent ports of OMG Pirates and a really good original in Maximus. So App developers Nekki definitely have their work cut out in their follow up to the original Shadow Fight; Shadow fight 2.
From the opening credits we can see that the developers have put a lot of effort into the atmosphere of the game. We’re not talking about anything on par with perhaps the Tekken series intros (who could forget setting up the tensions between Jin, Jun and Heihachi) but I think they have genuinely taken the time to give you a bit of background. In the credits you are caste into the shadow world – becoming a shadow in the process, bummer – you must now fight your way to the top of the demon ladder and try to reclaim your physical body.
This is where the game starts. Now before I go any further I have to add that this game is reliant on that tried and tested mobile gaming experience; an energy bar, that refills over time. To settle this point sooner rather than later – it is not crippling, you can probably get a full bar of energy every 25 – 30 minute and at least one slice of energy, enough to fight, in about 1 – 2 minutes. This is a good balance and I was happy with it, I can honestly say that in the 5 or 6 days I have been playing it I have never felt restricted to the point of deletion. So, on to the good bit…
The controls feel very familiar a movement thumb overlay on the left, B and A setup on the right (punch and kick). The controls are fine and there was enough finesse to allow actual combos. A down, B, B will produce a double kick of magnificent glory, crucially it’ll do that every time. This should really be the bread and butter of a title like this, if you haven’t got this down you may as well pack up and leave. But to their credit the controls are spot on and a few little flourishes with the movement, jump kicking off walls and back flipping away from opponents ensure that it never goes stale.
The variety in fighting styles is also great. As you level up you can purchase more powerful weapons, they have everything; nunchucks, batons, sai, swords and of course a katana. You can (and indeed have to) upgrade these to inflict ever increasing damage on ever increasingly difficult opponents. There are a unique set of moves for every weapon and I quickly became attached to my bludgeoning batons! I thought this gave the game a nice pace, if I got bored with one set of weapons a quick chance and I have a whole new challenge for 30 mins.
There is also variety in challenges. So far I’ve come across four games modes, they are interesting if not entirely unique: survival mode, tournament, story and duel mode. Whilst you are essentially doing the same thing in each they offer different paths of intrigue and progression. Fighting in a duel might unlock a weapon, whilst you can XP boost by going a few rounds in the tournament. There is plenty there to keep you going but my one issue is that the story mode progresses at a glacial pace. Essentially you are trying to go through 5 bodyguards to get to the first boss and it is genuinely impossible to beat the 4th bodyguard (the game actually gives you a difficulty reading before you go into a bout). I’m sure that after another few days I will have upgraded enough to finally get past the bastard but until then I’m stuck like the ninja shadow lemon I am. Having said that, I really enjoyed the more casual tournament mode and survival is a classic challenge.
Stylistically Shadow Fighter lives up to it’s gloomy name, naturally the protagonist and his opponents appear as silhouettes, sometimes set against misty mountains or a gladiatorial pit (complete with pitchforks, obviously). It looks great for an iPhone game and even better on the iPad version and you can tell that a lot of effort was put into the visuals especially setting which is vital in a game that consists of 2 plains – background and foreground.
Verdict: This will hold your attention for as long as 30 minutes at a time, perhaps you’ll space playing it over the day. Once in your morning commute, one in the evening. There is plenty to do and the game offers enough challenges to keep you hooked for a while. It is completely free, although does offer in-app purchases. Overall you are getting a lot of bang for your buck.