Crescent Moon Games is a publisher which puts out first rate titles, with last year's Mimpi serving as its gold standard. I downloaded Shadow Blade with the highest of expectations, and although it’s decent platformer with a few kinks, I was more than pleased.
Taking on the role of a young ninja named Kuro, your task is to kill your enemies, evade perilous traps, and to become the Shadow Blade. Hacking and slashing your way past adversaries isn't this adventure's sole joy, as your jumping and running skills are also needed to earn all three ninja stars at the end of each level. To earn the stars, you’ll need to grab all the shiny orbs within each stage and eliminate the bad guys all within a minute. Your level percentage progress is located on the upper left section of your device, and the time you’ve amassed is featured on the top of the screen. Once you complete the stage, you’ll unlock another challenge. It's all very basic, but with Shadow Blade, that's not a bad thing.
To move your ninja back and forth, use the directional arrows on the left side of your device. The A and B buttons are employed for action and jumping, and to do a double jump simply press the B icon twice. Gamers who prefer swiping their fingers across their devices can opt for the "gesture" controls, and that decision will eliminate the virtual icons from the screen altogether.
Though it’s a more intuitive and seamless experience than using the virtual controls, using the gesture controls can be a troublesome process. Leaping to collect orbs and rapidly move throughout each stage is all fine and dandy by simply using your finger. However, if you’re jumping between walls and must evade a few metal spikes, there’s a good chance you’ll bite the dust. When dodging traps and various obstructions, the virtual buttons are a steadier alternative to the gesture controls.
Although some of your enemies will have laser sights on their guns, they're very easy to kill. The true challenge is timing your jumps and averting all the razor infused traps which litter the landscape. An attempted double leap from an obstacle could lead you straight into another dangerous blockade, killing you immediately. Death is serious business, but in Shadow Blade your extinction is merely temporary. For every fatal mistake you make, you'll just be reincarnated to your stage's save point.
As much as I dug the Asian inspired environments from chapter one, Shadow Blade really kicked in visually during chapter two, as Kuro is placed in a more urban environment. Being a city slicker with a passion for high rises, abandoned warehouse buildings, and suggestive neon billboards, I was more than happy to fetch and leap my way through this grungy neighborhood.
Amidst all this goodness, Shadow Blade does get repetitive after several plays, and although one can expect such a dynamic from platformers, I simply wished all the excitement the game had to offer kicked in a bit sooner. I'm all for teasing our taste buds, but I was getting a bit too bored with the homogenized feel of the first chapter. One stage would look almost exactly the same as the following level, and part of a platformer’s appeal comes from the varied environments. I sleepwalked through a bunch of stages in the game, simply hoping to collect all of my ninja stars and wishing for a level that would thrill me to the bone. By the time I met the flame throwing bad ass boss during the middle of chapter two, my patience had already worn thin.
Shadow Blade isn't the most complicated platformer on the block, but I've had more than enough fun jumping my way into and out of danger, as well as slashing my way through a bunch of inept fighters. It does take a spell to actually find its footing, but if you can survive a few boring levels, you’ll be treated with more immersive environments and interesting villains. Kuro's blade may not be sharp and strong from the get go, but this ninja should eventually come around and win you over.