Were you a fan of Punch Out? Did you ever wish that you could take the experience, drop it into an ancient Roman setting, and deck it out with mythological beasts and an Infinity Blade-like veneer? Well, lucky iOS gamer, Gamelion has granted your heart's desire with Rage of the Gladiator, a port of the WiiWare game!
Rage tells the story of the fallen prince, Gracius, who is accused of his father's murder. As punishment for the crime, he is sent into the arena to fight as a gladiator. He'll battle fantastic creatures while trying to find out who really killed his father and framed him. There's not much to go on in terms of story, save for a few cutscenes after completing a difficulty level, so we don't really get to see Gracius fleshed out as a character. Then again, Little Mac didn't have that much depth either. But the prince does act as a vehicle for the mythological beatdowns during battles.
The game puts you in a first-person perspective during combat, giving you an interface with nine buttons to use. You'll have the options to dodge left or right, jump to avoid sweeping attacks, block with a shield, use potions, and activate special attacks. The brutal setting and presentation may make it seem like an Infinity Blade clone, but it's most definitely more like a Punch Out game. The characters all have personalities and voice-acting, as well as special moves and different phases. Getting their patterns down is the key to victory.
Technique and timing is everything in Rage of the Gladiator. You get three knockdowns in a fight. Once either combatant has fallen thrice, it's game over. The good news is that each unique opponent telegraphs their moves and even gives you audible cues in regard to what attack they'll perform next, much like the characters in Dragon Ball Z.
An example would be the chimera-like creature, Gargadan. The dude has a snake and a demon fused onto his head. He'll say something like, "Attack, Snake!" and the snake will reply with, "Yes, boss!" before striking you. Your job, as a savvy player with lightning reflexes and the ability to infer, is to dodge the serpent's attack and follow up with a combo by swiping left and right.
The bad news is that it can take forever to whittle down the opponent's health. Also, you have to knock them out three times. Gah. This is remedied with stronger weapons, but building up enough gold can be a bit of a chore too. If you find yourself getting too impatient, you could always buy more gold in the cash shop, though it's not necessary to complete the game. Besides, it's more fun to figure out attack patterns and punish the computer's mistakes.
Surprisingly, Rage of the Gladiator didn't instill any rage in me at all. I was expecting to scoff at the controls and the presentation, but I found myself having fun. It gets bonus points for bringing back memories of playing Punch Out as a kid and presenting the experience in a graphically-impressive package with addictive gameplay.
The downside is that it tasks players with running through the same lineup of baddies in each difficulty setting, unlocking one "boss" character per play until you can make it to the Gladiator tier. This means that it will take you a while to find out what happens to Prince Gracius and his tale of revenge and redemption. But on the plus side, you'll have fun getting there.