Chillingo sure knows how to be timely. Their newest game, Conan: Tower of the Elephant [$1.99], was slated to come out around the same time as the 2011 film remake, which means that they hope lots of people will stroll out of the theatre feeling all barbarian-like and search the App store to find this game. I have to hand it them though, giving a nod to one of the original Conan the Cimmerian stories with the title and storyline was a nice touch.
Like the original Robert E. Howard short story it is based on, Tower of the Elephant sees Conan setting his sights on a great tower in order to steal a precious gem from a demon sorcerer named Yara. Using comic-inspired cutscenes to illustrate story arcs and top down gameplay in order to complete quests, the game offers an attractive presentation and makes it pretty easy to slip into the world of Arenjun.
A simple tutorial opens the game, teaching you how to interact, attack and manage your inventory. Controls are basic, with a d-pad for movement on the bottom left and a large circle for attacks on the lower right. I found that the d-pad was sometimes unresponsive for a moment after an event where I talked to someone, but for the most part it was accurate.
When it came to battle, attacking and defending were both available, but I found that hacking away at my enemies was the most effective method of taking them out. Well, they don't call these games "hack and slash" for nothing (although when it comes to fighting bosses, that defend button will be much more useful). You also have a bar that fills up as you fight and allows you to pump up your attack for a short amount of time when you need it -- really handy for when you get jumped by a gang of grubby thieves who are dumb enough to think taking on a barbarian is a good idea.
A lovely, hand-drawn world map is available in the menu to show you your way as you explore these lands, along with a menu to keep track of your quests and inventory. These interfaces are really pleasant and I enjoyed using them. Seeing at a glance how to find a merchant or the location of a treasure chest made the game easy to navigate. In addition, whenever Conan gets a major quest, a small arrow will appear before his feet that shows you where to go. One of my biggest pet peeves is wandering around a world map with no idea where I'm going, so I appreciated this bit of attention to detail.
Of course, there are fetch quests as well, but I found that the story and gameplay was streamlined in such a way that I actually enjoyed even doing something as simple as going to collect a copper pipe or take out a band of thieves. Everything in the game is executed well and caters to making the player comfortable while experiencing the game universe, and it really shows in the final product. Even purchasing new items and armor was easy, giving single options rather than a huge list of things to choose from and stats to compare. Some gamers who enjoy that process will not like this. For me, it took away a step that would normally distract me in an iOS action title and allowed me to get back to the gameplay.
Also compatible with Game Center, you can watch achievements pop up as you play. Tower of the Elephant also offers access to a service called Crystal, which offers perks such as profile customization, sharing game results on Twitter and Facebook, and inviting friends to play the game. You can sign up for Crystal within the game as well, which was cool to me -- I hate having to surf to some other website on my phone to do that type of thing.
You won't do anything wildly new in Tower of the Elephant, but what you can do is enjoy some good old fashioned gameplay where you kick butt and take names, enjoy quests, and rack up achievements for it. What could have been a boring movie tie-in turned out to be a solidly enjoyable entry in Chillingo's action library. If you're in the mood to kill stuff and feel like a badass, Tower of the Elephant is a winner.
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