Argos was glad to finally get rid of his tapeworm
The first Hero of Sparta excited many when it was launched back in the day. Had Gameloft managed to make a God of War clone work on iPhone? It was, however, a bit hit and miss and the graphics now looked dated. Hero of Sparta II aims to address this. It’s had a graphical overhaul that Grand Designs would be proud of and the whole thing feels far more grand in scale. But how does it play and can it measure up to the game it’s obviously trying to be?
The graphics are by far the biggest improvement, making full use of OS4’s ability to provide better shading and lighting. The iPhone 4 version has support for Retina display as well but even the 3GS version is impressive. The detail in the level design helps to create an epic feel to the game, even if you are only guided through the game on a strict path.
As with the first game, you play as Argos, a Spartan warrior who has travelled to the underworld and back and now finds himself travelling home. Unfortunately for the hero, Hades has other ideas and warns him that if he sets foot on Sparta the place will suffer. Argos ignores him and all hell lets loose, literally.
The storyline is important in a game like this and although Sparta II has a fair crack at the Greek Epic style it doesn’t always pull it off. Good voice acting during cut scenes helps, but the animation glitches and rushed look detract from the story during these scenes. Where you cared what happened to Kratos in God of War, Argos may as well be the hero of home shopping catalogues.
Storyline aside, the instructions from this point are fairly simple; hack and slash your way to the next checkpoint, which opens when you’ve successfully slaughtered all the underworld’s minions. This is followed by the customary mini-boss battle using quicktime events and then a full on big boss. It’s a tried and tested formula that God of War has used to its advantage and Hero of Sparta II works in the same way.
Throughout your adventure you can level up your damage meter and mana bar through orbs that can be found in statues and increase the size of the bar through crystals hidden throughout the levels. Special crystals can be added to your weapons to give them extra abilities as well. You’ll often need all of these in order to defeat the end of level boss, so it’s well worth looking around for extra orbs as you make your way there.
Special mention must be made to the way Gameloft have designed the controls here. On the left you have the standard virtual analogue stick which they’ve been improving with every game they make. The big difference comes from the fighting controls on the right. In addition to the jump and cover buttons there is a bigger button for fighting. Normally this would just require a single press, mixed with up, down etc to pull off moves. Here, though, the button can be moved in a similar way to the virtual stick, a bit like a dual analogue control but with specific actions dedicated to swiping in each direction. Pulling up allows you to throw opponents, down will bring your sword crashing down, great for breaking enemy shields. It works really well and I’m surprised no-one had thought of implementing something like this before.
The only thing really getting in the way of the controls is the camera. As with plenty of other 3D games on the platform it can’t keep up with the action all the time and you’ll sometimes find yourself facing a wall with a huge minotaur behind you. Luckily it doesn’t hamper the game too much and a quick change of direction will right it again.
Completing the 12 levels on offer here won’t take you too long. Although the landscape makes them look grand and impressive, the play areas are fairly small. Going back to replay older stages will over-write your game save as well, which is disappointing as it would have been nice to have the option of playing a stage again without losing your place. Aside from the campaign there are no other modes on offer to get more from the game, once it’s over, it’s over.
The game plays well and there’s fun to be had from spraying the enemy’s blood across the floor in varying ways, but ultimately Hero of Sparta II feels slightly vacant, as if something was missing from the formula. It’s not a bad game by any means, fans of the Hack and Slash genre will find plenty to keep them occupied, but with a bit more variety and longer levels it could have been so much more.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 6
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