Swordigo [$1.99] shouldn't be as refreshing as it is. We were playing through better hack and slash adventures twenty years ago. But the genre has stumbled en route to the App Store, and we've been left waiting for a classic of the mobile era. Swordigo might just be the one.

Touch Foo is building a reputation for impressive games. Soosiz [$1.99 / HD], the studio's first release won our hearts with a combination of novel design and great controls. Swordigo has all the things you'd expect from a good hack-n-slash: boss battles, sword combat, spell slinging, character upgrades and a ton of exploration. We've seen it all before. So why is it so utterly satisfying?

Scarcity is part of the reason. But Touch Foo has done more than create a game in an under-represented niche. It's done an outstanding job of building it in the process.

From the controls to the upgrade mechanics, nearly everything in Swordigo works better than you might expect. On-screen directional controls are so often awkward, but they're flawless here. In the eight hours I spent with the game I only bungled one or two jumps with my hand out of place, a better than reasonable margin of error. And that eight hours of content? That's just for the main game. If you're inclined to hunt down every last treasure chest (and earn the related Game Center achievement), expect to put in more time.

The art might be a problem for some. I've never been comfortable with Touch Foo's style. The critters and character design in Soosiz grated on me, and the transition to 2.5D hasn't helped. The environments are decent if repetitive, but it would be generous to say the character models have the detail of a Playmobil figure. You might be inclined to skip the game because of that. Don't. The hero looks better as the game goes on, and you won't notice the look when you're knee deep in rock-solid gameplay.

You also shouldn't look to this game for an original story—Swordigo goes well beyond nodding to Link and his crew. I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing—it's a charming homage, and it's also unobtrusive. Touch Foo clearly spent its time elsewhere, designing an impressive platforming experience and a fun set of customizable upgrades. Some of the latter can be bought with the not-rupees dropped by enemies and unsuspecting bushes. Others are found tucked away in secret treasure chests.

Early on, there isn't much to do. You'll have a sword and a jump button and can only do so much with the combination. But your toolbox expands as the game's four spells are introduced. Three can be used against enemies, and all four let you interact with the environment in new ways. You can shoot switches with your magic bolts or blow up hidden walls with bombs. Boss fights take advantage of those abilities, and there are unique challenges in nearly every new area. Because of this, Swordigo stays novel for its entire length, never relying on familiar tactics for long.

If a challenge can be defeated using spells or objects from the environment, the game plays beautifully. Sword combat, on the other hand, is a bit stiff. Your attacks run in a pattern, and you'll often need an overhead swing at just the moment you slash forward. Enemies seem designed to exploit that weakness in the most frustrating ways, firing just over your sword's reach or swooping down and hitting you in the face. Thankfully death is rarely a problem—falling takes you back to the last ledge with a sliver of health lost, while anything more permanent drops you at the most recent checkpoint. You can also teleport between checkpoints, so it's trivial to take a trip back to town to shop or heal.

So while there are frustrations and a handful of small bugs, they're blips in a solid eight hours of entertainment. Whether it ends up as a hidden gem or a genuine hit, Swordigo will have earned its place in any number of hearts. Touch Foo may be treading familiar ground, but it does so with great skill. If you're up for a good old fashioned adventure, this is where you want to be. You might also want to be in our forums—it's dangerous to go alone.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • subshell001

    What posture!

    • markymarkanddafunkybunch

      5 stars. Best game ever made for the iPhone yet 4/2/14

  • theundertow

    I've been enjoying it also. I didn't check the achievements so when your run into new situations and...stuff happens...at least you sometimes get an achievement!

  • Cesar Casas

    Not liking this review at all. You sound too negative on it even though you still give it a 4.5. Almost all paragraphs started with something negative to say about the game. Why did you like it? why is it a 4.5 for you?

    • Alex

      Same reaction here.  nuff said

      • Richard Paredes

        I love this game.. Not a fun of touch controller but this one won me over.  I'm 85% done with the game, remains me of Zelda II.  Start working on Swordigo 2 please:)

    • qpawn

      -"Swordigo has all the things you'd expect from a good hack-n-slash..."
      -"From the controls to the upgrade mechanics, nearly everything in Swordigo works better than you might expect."
      -"The hero looks better as the game goes on, and you won't notice the look when you're knee deep in rock-solid gameplay."
      -"Touch Foo clearly spent its time elsewhere, designing an impressive platforming experience and a fun set of customizable upgrades."
      -"Swordigo stays novel for its entire length, never relying on familiar tactics for long."
      -"So while there are frustrations and a handful of small bugs, they're blips in a solid eight hours of entertainment."

  • GamerGuy

    Needs an art pass.....

    • http://twitter.com/woodesh matthew wood

       can't help but feel the game would of sold itself more if they had just paid someone to work on the art style. evertale lacks depth where as this lacks character, if they had a baby..

      • http://twitter.com/DiggedyDave DiggedyDave

        Agreed.. this is why I haven't bought it either.  Its just not pretty to look at.  Maybe they can upgrade this later or in the sequel 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Quickmix Frank Quickmix Hassas

    Great Game!

  • Rob Geeson

    Paper Monsters was underwhelming for me and I never quite finished Soosiz.. Is this better than either of these games?

    • Nick Andreetta

      Like Soosiz, the game becomes a familiar grind at some point, with punishing bosses and lots of jumping from platform to platform. I finished for the sake of finishing, but the "story" is completely unfulfilling and beating the game left me cold. Yes, the controls are solid and the game is large enough that you don't feel cheated out of money, but the only real emotion elicited by the gameplay is the occasional frustration of getting stuck at ridiculous bosses in later levels.

      When Soosiz came out so long ago, the App Store was a different market and the game shone for the sheer amount of content and polish it offered at the time. Swordigo isn't that much better than Soosiz, but the overall App Store is, so you might want to wait for it to go free and spend your money elsewhere. That said, I suspect the right audience will love Swordigo for some reason or another.

      • Rob Geeson

        Thanks Nick, I appreciate the thorough response! I might well wait for a demo version then - or get off the fence and invest in Waking Mars.

  • Bytebrain

     Get this game, and get of the fence.Yes, some of the very late stages can be frustratingly difficult, but the fact remain that this game is the absolute best in its genre on the AppStore. :-)

  • Arachnarchy

    I like it a lot - It's really well paced, controls are perfect, level design is intelligent. There is no excuse for the looks though. While the animations are great, levels and characters look like they're straight out of a crappy 90's shareware game. It's beautiful on the inside, but man.

  • Kaffeperkulator

    Too easy through the game, bad estethics and lack of story, but the best platformer so far on iOS. Nintendo made great platformers for SNES, I want more of that stuff.

  • FreezeFrozen

    the game icon is really ugly. thats all I have to say :) 

  • http://twitter.com/crunchewy Crunchewy

    I like this game a lot, but the iCloud syncing does not work well. I was stuck playing on my iPhone for days because it refused to go to the cloud for some reason. Finally it did and I was able to continue on my iPad. Now I'm planning to stick to only playing it on there. I don't know if it's a bug in Swordigo, or a flaw in iCloud, or both. In any case the game is challenging and fun. I like the graphics just fine, but I realize I seem to be in the minority on that.

  • mrjr84

    Swordigo definitely deserves 4.5 stars—I think that's right on—but doesn't deserve the copious nit-picking on subjective stuff like art. When a game is good, you can state that it is good without qualifying every positive bit.

  • RhythmMan

    I've been waiting for a game like this for a while, sure you can pick out reasons why it's not perfect but it's better than most iOS platformers. Great game for free! :-)

  • Tommy Zhang

    Awesome game, although similar to zelda. Nonetheless it's probably my fav game

  • yocdub

    It's cool and hard I'm on the second boss pls help me just help me pls!!!

  • http://www.fri-v.com/ Friv

    This Great Game!

Swordigo Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4.5