Gameloft's BackStab [$6.99] was released for Xperia Play a few months back as a timed exclusive, but now that it has finally arrived on iOS as a universal app, we get to take a look at the studios take of Assassin's Creed via Pirates of the Carribbean. Which is to say, it's an open world action adventure game with lots of jumping around and stabbing things.

The core of the game relies on the same parkour and action mechanics of the Assassin's Creed games on consoles. That means the bulk of the game requires you to run around a somewhat open world and jump from object to object. Control wise, you'll get a virtual thumbstick and some buttons to control sword swipes and jumping. Combat is a button mashing affair and while you get some counter moves, you don't get a block, so most battles can be won by hitting the attack button repeatedly. Touching and scrolling anywhere on the screen moves the camera around. It's tolerable, but there will be plenty of instances where you miss jumps, balk stealth sequences or attack thin air because you can't quite get the camera settled properly.

The same goes for free-running, which only works in certain contextual situations. Occasionally you have to push the jump button and sometimes the game does it for you. It's confusing at best, unpredictable and annoying at its worst and you'll die a lot if you don't get the hang of it.

You'll be doing all of this dying, running, jumping and stabbing across several locales in what can only be described as one of the most insane, brain-melting stories I've played through in a long time. From the outset, you play as Henry Blake, an officer in England's Royal Navy who ends up with a faux-hawk and a badass biker jacket after being double-crossed by a man who was apparently an old friend. This puts you into shackles, gives excuse for a daring escape and eventually provides the reasoning for the crux of the story, your revenge. To get your revenge, you'll kill chickens and rabbits to make food for a buxom lady, run errands for random people and explore a few different Caribbean Islands in a series of missions only slightly related to the main story arc.

I'm wary to "spoil" the strangeness the game takes on around its mid-point, but let's just say it pulls an Uncharted and goes off the rails of reality and spills into something totally different. This wouldn't be a big deal if it made a lick of sense, but the game seems to push you to want revenge, not to run around caves searching out different artifacts to reverse an infection. The world simply doesn't justify the twist, but it's a point only a few will likely quibble with.

As far as the open-world is concerned, it's a mix between Assassin's Creed and Red Dead Redemption, in that you'll be running around and taking on missions from random people, saving people from being killed by the Spanish and picking flowers. The kitchen sink approach is admirable, but the game is so buggy it's difficult to really dig into. If you can deal with it, there is tons of content to explore, even if it's all a bit familiar. You can play through the main storyline in about four or five hours, but if you explore the extra missions and side stuff, there is plenty of gameplay to be had.

The engine is likely the place to put the blame for the bugs. Characters will fall through the ground, get stuck in jumping loops or disappear altogether. Design wise, several of the NPCs seem pulled directly from Assassins Creed II, but the low polygon count and often humorous animation means you'll never really mistake this for anything but a mobile game. While those are minor annoyances and are mostly expected in open world games, they happen far more than they should and even worse, happen to your own character sometimes. The game does a decent job of magically pulling you out of stuck corners, but I had to restart a few times after getting trapped on a ledge or in a wall.

That said, BackStab runs well on the iPad and only occasionally chugs on an iPhone 3GS. Control-wise, it's far better suited for the iPad's bigger screen and you'll likely be accidently touching buttons far more often on an iPhone. The world looks great on all of the devices, even if the characters don't.

The characters are fully voiced, but the dialogue isn't particularly noteworthy and the voice acting, while an admirable inclusion, doesn't really add to the experience. For their part, the sound effects and music do a good job of sounding like what they're supposed to, but don't plan on being blown away by the sound design or the acting. It's better than previous Gameloft titles, but still has a lot of room to grow.

If you've been desperately craving an Assassin's Creed game set in an 18th Century pirate wonderland to play on the go, this will do the trick, but don't expect too much from it. If you can deal with all the bugs, you'll certainly be taken on a bizarre ride and you'll have a ton of stuff to do in the world.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • DotComCTO

    Ouch! Gameloft..."Backstab"bed by TA. Oh, the irony!  :-P

    Thanks for this review...now I can safely wait for the inevitable sale by Gameloft.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Mosely/635520688 Chris Mosely

       We're setting up a competition. When we reach 1000 fans on Facebook for our new game Zombie Pirate Robot Attack.   we will take our local homeless guy to a restaurant and buy him whatever he wants till he's full. All other ideas welcome. Said homeless guy is very friendly. Photographs will be supplied with the team having lunch with said guy.

      Yes, we're promoting our iPad game anyway we can, and a homeless guy might even get a good feed.

      http://facebook.com/zprattack

      • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

        NOPE.

  • Anonymous

    I'd love to get this game... but I hate to think what it would do to my poor 2nd gen touch.

  • bigrand1

    Seems to me like a cross between AC and Prince of Persia! 

    • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

      Uh, AC and Prince of Persia are essentially the same game dude. This is AC set in the Carribean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thekarens Karen Horn

    I think you mean you're "wary" to spoil the strangeness, not "weary" unless you're tired.

  • Rain1dog

    I was hoping a solid review for this game as I have come to look forward to Gameloft offerings. I might have to pass on this for the time being. Good read.

  • Mrjoshuanolan

    I do not think I was playing the same game as the review.... I have been playing it all day and it has been awesome! not the buggy mess they are talking about... cool game overall and definitely set a new standard for what mobile gaming can do.

  • Sticktron

    I found control scheme 2 better (fixed joystick + swipe anywhere to look).
    Also who doesn't like stealing a horse, riding to the arena and fighting zombies? This game has it all, lol.

  • ltcommander.data

    Anyone done a comparison between the graphics quality and performance of BackStab running on the Xperia Play vs. the iPhone 4? It seems from screenshots that the iPhone 4 has higher resolution textures, but polygon count and draw distance seems similar.

  • Indieman

    Gameloft strikes again!

  • Rjay

    Not surprising really.  Just another quickie cash grab from Gameloft by copying another popular game.  Besides these type of games work well on a console but will just feel shoehorned and inferior on a touchscreen device.

    • Benjamin Wright

      not with a fling controller it doesn't! just sayin

  • Megasuperb

    I've been a heavy critic of Craploft but so far I've actually been thoroughly impressed with this. I haven't played for more than a few hours but so far I haven't encountered much bugs - at least ones not to make a big deal of. If I shal criticize it, the whole parkour-AC-climbing up walls business is a bit clunky and I found myself falling a few times just because of awkward controls but otherwise I have not much to complain about. Gameloft is still far from making consistent high-quality titles but this is a step in the right direction.

  • Max Woolf

    This will be $0.99 within a month because it's not Modern Combat 2.

    Just saying.

    • Decoy Octopus

      If people like you would stop waiting for 99 cent sales all the time then mabye developers could put more time into development. As it is now you cant expect much fro a 6.99 game. If you want a better experience get a psp vita or psp

  • HisDivineOrder

    I just can't wait for the next Gameloft game idea.

    Perhaps NY Nights (LA Noire)?  How about Green Faced Vengeance (Red Dead Redemption)?  Or antiHero (aka inFamous)?  S.C.A.R.E.D (Strategic Convoy of Angry Red-faced, Exhausted Dutchmen)  (aka F.E.A.R)?  Wormhome (aka Portal), Decay (aka Half-Life), Waiting2Live (Left 4 Dead), or System Jolt (aka Bioshock/System Shock)?

    Or perhaps they'll just make yet another Call of Duty-wannabe.  Branch out from Modern Combat into World at War or the WWII classics that made the series (no, BiA doesn't count).

    Don't get me wrong, I love Gameloft, but man their ideas for games must be like just going onto Amazon and seeing what's selling for 360 or PS3.  

    • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

      Are you new to the app store? Do you really need to go online and make this statement, to an audience that probably knows more about this than you do? I hope you thought you were really clever with all that mess, because I find you absolutely redundant and annoying.

  • Karma32

    Finally, a review that doesn't make another highly mediocre 3rd person Gameloft game look good.  I've had enough of the absolutely utter crap pile of 3rd persion Gameloft games that is Splinter Cell, Shadow Gaurdian, and others, only to be ridiculously reviewed well. I think people have gotten blind with Gameloft's aging graphics and looked past their horrific gameplay.

    • Decoy Octopus

      Heres and idea, dont buy gameloft games then.

  • Clyndon

    Just play the game before you talk, please! Backstab is a hughe step
    forward for Gameloft. Controls, gfx and story are absolutely fine.
    Folks, you all seem to forgett that iOS ist NOT a gaming plattform
    (yet). And if you continue to do so, so sell your damn iOS-devices and
    get a real (mobile) console. You'll never have a full console xp on an i-device. (Unless you go for OnLive).

  • Anon

    Here we go again, everytime a Gameloft game arrives these comment sections get littered with people crying "Mum, Gameloft are copying again, BooHoo". Get over it. It gets said every single game. If you don't like it, don't buy it, and get a job.

    • MichaelBluth

      As oposed to those who do the exact same thing towards the people that criticize GL? So you're allowed to cry about them, but they can't get on GL for being rubbish? That hardly seems fair, brah.

    • Snipyro

      Gameloft copying other games IS a valid concern that irritates many. Not only is it a rather dirty marketing strategy (literally EVERY game they make is a copy of a console game with a new theme and name), it really pales in comparison to the innovative yet fun iOS games that adhere to the Touch interface, e.g. IB. I can see the appeal of gameloft games sure, but yeah, I just have an issue with the copying - not nice and something I would never support personally.

  • Wastedyuthe

    I'm with anon above. If you're going to moan at gameloft not being original then moan at COD copying Doom ffs. So far I like this game even though the conversation animation is unintentionally hilarious, the game is pretty solid so far. Some very satisfying sword fighting action and good atmosphere.

  • http://twitter.com/Davidprimer3 Davidprimer

    Be happy Gameloft makes a lot of iOS games and they are all pretty good quality games! Without gameloft there wouldn't be a lot of 'good' iOS games... EA does a good job too & the games such Infinity Blade & Real Racing. But are there really a lot console-like games on iOS? No, not at all. I'm very happy with the games Gameloft releases, I'm not a perfectionist on IOS games. Buy urself a 3DS with Zelda: OoT & u'll be more than satisfied!

    • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

      But everyone's already played Zelda, its a 10 year old game. And EA's games are generally pretty ho-hum on any console.

  • Mrjoshuanolan

    People the games are $7 or less... For that price I have to say that these games are pretty amazing for mobile... I remember paying 5 bucks for a lame tetris game on a flip phone... so I would say they have come pretty far... stop hating on gameloft and ea...back when people were thinking and hoping they could ever play GTA on their phone and not the crappy version that it started out with... Gameloft made it happen... Sure their games are inspired by consoles... because they are trying to bring the console games to phones... and I would say they have delivered pretty well... Even since Iphone games started coming out... the old HOS... was crazy compared to what had been out for mobile... This game is about 10 steps ahead of that game so they are evolving and improving and will continue to do so... but for now if you want something better get a PSP and pay $25 bucks for the games.... you cannot expect a $7 game and a $25 game to be the same quality...they are made to pass time not be your only system... If you play games like that get an XBOX or PS3

  • Hanoi1235

    I Love this game but I don't like gameloft , cuz they've given BackStab everything from AC on consoles  , why did they make AC Atair Chronicle look like a piece of shit ?

  • http://twitter.com/NOVAinc Lucas

    Lip sync anyone? It really bugs me they use so good character models but then they show a close up of the dude talking with his emotion less, close mouthed face

  • Jimmö

    The only games i've actually spent A LOT of time with on my ipod touch 4 and iphone 4 are MC2 and Order & Chaos - BOTH Gameloft games. Thank you Gameloft for taking the ios gaming further!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Faixan-Amjad/100001516853676 Faixan Amjad

    its a really interesting game... i downloaded this game after reading its review from here.. http://www.technorotic.com/2011/06/backstab-new-game-from-gameloft-is-now-available-in-the-app-store-review/
    but the review here is more detailed and good written.. thanks...!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6F4BPUGG2RSP2IEG7ZY25CUM54 -Jet-

    The games bugs are forgivable, but the storyline can be slightly over-the place. One minute your fighting for revenge, the next minute your fighting zombies in an arena.

    By the way, Gameloft (as far as I know) is in partnership with Ubisoft, which means they didn't rip off Assassin's Creed, they borrowed it.

  • i0Shaxxor
  • madreviewer

    It crash on ios 7.2

  • madreviewer

    I wast my money on this game

BackStab Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 3.5