We're nothing short of spellbound by Everplay's frantic platform game.
Announced as a game taking inspiration from Vlambeer's classic and addictive game Super Crate Box, we were more than ready to sample Everplay's new title Spellsword as soon as it hit the App Store earlier today. The good news? While the inspiration of that game makes its presence known superficially, we're delighted to say that this new title does more than just evolve the action-platformer.
Like Super Crate Box, the game takes place on a static screen and the challenge is to flit from spot to spot, gathering items and taking out enemies whenever possible. These enemies range from critters that explode and multiply, to giant lazer-firing eyeballs that hang from the sky. They spawn either within the game area itself or, more commonly, from the unexplorable sides of the screen.
At present there are three static, single-screen stages available in the game, although more are promised for the future. Each of these stages feature environmental hazards, such as swinging spiked balls or bouncy chain platforms, all of which add a refreshingly dynamic feel to the action as you try to keep track of both the fight at hand, and your own precarious platforming.
Your character's basic sword is weak and rather ineffective against this onslaught of enemies, and this neatly introduces Spellsword's unique gameplay. Various magical cards spawn one at a time across the screen, and collecting them adds a timed bonus to your damage output. As well as boosting your damage, these also provide a explosive boost to the graphics, showering enemies, explosions and currency across the screen. The bonus only lasts for a short time however, so racing from card to card in order to maintain your extra firepower is essential if you're to stay alive.
As well as the addictive gameplay, the purchasable upgrades add a further level of compulsion too. These range from enchanted trinkets that extend the power and duration of your cards, or skills that provide similar boosts. The end result is to leave you feeling eternally hopeful about finishing that seemingly impossible challenge, if only you can just grab a few more rupees for the shop. That the developer doesn't offer any kind of bypass to this progression via in-app purchases (coupled with a near-impossible grind), almost moves me to write Everplay a love-letter.
Spellsword evolves further from Vlambeer's action-platformer by providing individual challenges in addition to the familiar endless high-score mode. Some of these missions task you with surviving long enough to take down a specific number of enemies, survive a set number of spawns, or collect a certain number of cards. Each stage has 20 of these missions, and it'll take you no small amount of time to best them all.
Once you have exhausted these missions, the endless mode itself is provided in Easy, Medium, and Hard flavors, so you can dive straight into every aspect of Spellsword, even early on when you still need to unlock key upgrades. It's a lovely piece of progression design from the developer.
The only niggles we came away from the review related to the controls themselves: we'd like to have seen the buttons spaced a little closer together, particularly for the attack and jump buttons in the bottom-right of the screen. In contrast to the sharper mechanics of games such as Super Crate Box, you'll also need to adapt to the looser collision detection of the game. You will though, and the effort is handsomely rewarded.
Spellsword is beautiful, frantic, addictive, satisfying, explosive and, oh my goodness I think I've run out of superlatives. A spiritual successor to Super Crate Box it may well be, but only in its most fundamental concepts. When we all start thinking about our Game of the Year this December, I can only hope to have enjoyed some serious competition to this extraordinary title. Buy it.
What's Hot: Frantic and varied gameplay, frighteningly addictive.
What's Not: At a push? The buttons could be closer together.