Game Center isn’t that great. That was the first among throngs of intelligent thoughts that followed after my first few forays into Infinity Blade’s [$2.99] new “Arena” mode, which hit the App Store this afternoon as a free update to the core -- and now reduced priced -- game.

The second thought had something to do with the grim satisfaction I take from hitting people in the face with virtual maces. I’ve heard Infinity Blade likened to Punch-Out on several occasions. It’s a solid comparison, but I’ve never get the kind of cheap, visceral thrills from that joint like I do from Infinity Blade. Being able to hit people in face while dressed as trolls like I can now makes it all the more ... er, fun.

In a nugget, Arena pits you against another dude in a series of battles to the death. The victor is the person who wins the most matches. The twist is that you don’t always play as the human -- you’ll also be forced to play as at least one of the game’s monsters.

It’s a cool setup, and for the most part, it works. You’ll feel like you’re playing against opponents who are much smarter and way more cunning. The trade-off is that nothing you do in this mode translates to the campaign. Carrying on with the things you've earned is central to the experience, so this decision does stick out for better or worse.

My third thought had something to do with Arena’s self-containment. Infinity Blade allows people to sink real money into the game in exchange for gold, so I trudged into Arena with a belly full of trepidation.

Alas, no worries; everything you earn in Arena is locked into the current match. You’ll also start with no items earned from the campaign, so every game is a fresh one -- which is what makes the decision to have progression a puzzling one.

After each match, you’ll earn gold that you can then spend on shield, armor, weapons, or new body types if you’re a monster... but you’ll keep none of it after the match. Ideally, this self-contained faux-perk system creates an arms race against opponents, but it lacks the depth needed to make that friction meaningful. The customization options are lacking and everything seems way too easy to get.

My fourth thought had something to do with how much I like trolls. I want to be the jerk troll clubbing pitiful humans in the face and I totally got to do that in Arena. Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’m having a blast doing it.

Beasts control much like the human with the added benefit of a slider bar that controls swing speed. There’s also a “Fury” bar that allows for increased recovery times. I think it might be a too technical for its own good, but you’ll get the hang of it in minutes.

Being a troll also offers a cool chance to look behind the curtain of enemy design. I feel like game creator Chair just ripped out its AI’s spine and sticks your hand up the monster. You get a distinct feel for how the enemies are designed to attack as the puppeteer.

To access Arena, update your game and head straight into the menu option from the game. Be prepared to fiddle with Game Center; I’ve received countless errors and weird hang-ups thus far, but when you do connect, the multiplayer works really well.

Like I wrote in a previous post, this Arena update also gives you a ton of new weapons and gives you access to a boss attack mode called “Survivor.” It’s definitely worth the price of $0 and the game itself is definitely worth the $2.99 Chair is selling it for at the moment. Check it!

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry but this article was really confusing for me and kinda all over the place.  I don't really understand your "thought" process. It doesn't matter though; the multiplayer is fun.

  • Tim

    Infinity Blade is the best handheld game ever made. I've already clocked over 50 hours of gameplay, and now I have even more stuff to do with multiplayer. 

  • Anonymous

     No complaints with Game Center - better looking and easier to use than Open Feint in my opinion.

  • Cowboysfreetyme

     I want Brad's arm as a weapon.

  • Mike

    Lol, a big name in the gaming dev scene called the app store games all fart apps:

    http://www.industrygamers.com/news/nintendo-is-right-about-iphone-apps-hurting-industry-in-very-negative-way-says-dyack/

    • BigNameDev

      That guy's not a "big name", he's a bitter troll that only ships mediocre games every 7-10 years.

      • Mike

        Well read the disxussion about whatnhe said on neogaf. Many agree with him and think the idevices dont hqve indy games like aquaria even.

    • Discus

      That's not what he said, you moronic troll...

      "...And I’m not saying there aren’t quality games on the iOS, because there are; there are some good games there, but there’s so much performance oversupply and so much commoditization, that it actually is affecting, in my opinion, the industry in a very negative way."
      Just because he brought up the 17,000 fart apps (which there are) doesn't mean that's what he called all iOS games.

      I'm not sure I agree, myself.. I think it's from the POV of large studios with big costs being threatened by quality games for lower prices by independents.. but it is a fair point to make. 

  • Josh

    Dyak sucks at making games, he is an average game developer at best.

  • E_Domina

    whoa this looks pretty fun. the graphics look great but the slider "button" and that skull design kills me

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone gotten the achievement for getting all items in one play through since the last update where the path splits?

    • Skye629

       They should remove that achievement cuz its a pain and I think its impossible to do now

  • Matt

    Why do you say, "Game Center isn’t that great" ?

  • FlameOfWrath

    Darn.  Purchased two days ago for $5.99.  Oh well.

  • http://zerocorpse.tumblr.com/ ZeroCorpse

    Anybody who doesn't buy this at the $2.99 price point is an idiot. This is easily one of the best games on iOS, and it's a universal app, too. Play it on your iPhone, play it on your iPad, spend only $3 to do it?  YES!

    Get it guys. Really. It's that good.