spiraliconWay back at last year's GDC we got our first look at Spiral Episode 1, an action RPG from Pixel Hero Games built in the Unreal Engine. At that time, even though it was early in its development, Spiral looked and played great, offering a unique visual style and made for touchscreen controls. A few months later and the first trailer for Spiral was released, still looking great, with a planned release of its first episode late in the year.

Well 2012 came and went but even though it was a bit past its intended time Spiral Episode 1 has finally launched in international App Stores and will be heading to the US later tonight. I went ahead and grabbed it and checked out the first chunk of the game, and so far I'm pretty impressed by what's here.

You, as a character named Tempus, start out in a surreal dream world which acts as a tutorial to teach you how to play. Controls are pretty simple: tap somewhere in the environment to move to that point, double-tap to run, and tap on your character to stop moving. You can also drag around on the screen to look around. After you make your way through this brief dream world you'll awaken on a train, which is the same level we've played in early builds previously.


You find out, through talking with your internal AI lady, that the narcoleptic episodes like the one you've just experienced have been happening more frequently, and have raised the suspicion of some guards on the train you're riding. Apparently there is some precious cargo being transported on this train, and it's up to you to find out what it is and what it's for. Your immediate job is to talk with others on the train to gather more information.

When that doesn't really lead anywhere, a sudden explosion takes over your full attention. After inspecting the explosion in the cargo hold you're told that enemies are attacking from the roof of the train. You quickly find a way up there yourself to do battle, and this is when Spiral really starts to open up.

Combat in Spiral is simple, but fun. Tap an enemy to perform a light attack, or tap them repeatedly to pull off a combo. In addition, tap and hold on an enemy to perform a heavy attack or tap and hold on yourself to charge up a special blast that can hurt multiple enemies that are in your radius. Depending on how far away the enemies are that you're attacking, you'll automatically perform a melee or ranged attack. There's a stamina bar to worry about too, along with a health bar, so you can't just go nuts tapping enemies because eventually you'll become exhausted.

During this train sequence there's also a mini-boss fight of sorts, against a hovercopter. Here your position is fixed and you must swipe to aim at the copter using tap gestures similar to the normal combat to fire at it. Shortly after this you'll square off against another group of baddies and that draws the first chapter to an end.

My initial thoughts after playing through that first chapter are that I'm excited to see where Spiral goes. The storyline seems intriguing and is entirely voice-acted, though it's of mixed quality. Visually the game is fantastic, though my iPhone 5 felt like it was having a meltdown after just about 20 minutes of playing. Chalk that up to the Unreal Engine, I suppose. Combat is deeper than it first appeared, but still I'm somewhat worried about it being a mindless tap-fest. Your character gains experience through playing and can level up his attributes, so there might be much more to the combat as I continue to progress.

If you're looking for a new RPG-ish adventure with plenty of action and an interesting story, I think Spiral will fit that bill. I'm eager to dive in deeper, and if it's caught your attention as well then add it to your TouchArcade [Free] app Watch List to get an alert when it hits the US App Store tonight, or swing by the forums for even more early impressions and discussion.

International App Store Link: Spiral Episode 1, $4.99 (Universal)

  • El Viaje Infinito

    Sounds great! I think it`s exactly the kind of game I was looking for to play on my iPhone 🙂 After watching the gameplay video in the forums I am really excited!

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  • Nader

    Thanks for the kind preview Jared, and sorry about the iphone overheating, it happens to me too (though not in ipad?). Hopefully you'll enjoy the combat a bit more as it progresses! 😉

  • ste86uk

    Is there anywhere else I can find a list of games coming tonight? I'm in the UK and you guys don't get the post up before releases here very often anymore and I'm always here with an itchy finger at midnight.

    • cowtruck123

      I would really like to know this too.

  • ImJPaul

    Too bad this will probably get lost in the shadows of XCOM. Or maybe it'll flourish because of XCOMs price?! I guess we'll see.

  • Farfield

    Seems a great game. I was worried about the combat mechanic because there is a fine line between complex and fun and too simple and boring when touch based gestures it's about and after seeing the video I'm hoping to play it.

  • twistedmind87

    Just downloaded and spent some time on this. The controls take some getting used too but the combat system is really good. It has some depth too and multiple taps in different ways and places perform combos, short tap for a quick hit or long press to charge up. Also has ranged combat and other features. The graphics are simply breath taking and everything is so fluid. The devs have spent a lot of time on this and it shows!

    There are 7 chapters with the first taking me 30 minutes. Then there is an arena mode. Levelling isn't exactly RPG like though. It's very basic.

    Still an excellent game and very worth checking out. Makes a welcome addition to the countless infinity blade or other unreal engine style games that use the same templates. This is all fresh programmed and done to a high standard.

    Flawless on a 4s 6.1.3 with very quick load times. No IAP in sight either 😉

    • Phoen1x1

      Never much liked tapping on the enemy as a fighting mechanic but I am going to give this a try.

  • twistedmind87

    Also some 'coming soon' arenas so this looks like it will be updated with new content.

    4/5 for first impressions! Very good!

    • jForsythe

      Lets not forget this is ep1 so if it sells it will be updated with more eps.

  • Boris Nguetie

    Guys just buy the game!! This is one of those rare games made for ios that actually are worth paying for!! Amazing visuals and effects!! The most facial expressive character ever made for ios, 60 fps on my iphone 5 ( oh god i love that), good voice acting and funny protagonist!!

  • eventide

    An I the only one that gets an Advent Rising vibe from this?

  • Chris Brady

    I am so sold on this I have my wallet and bandwidth screaming at me to stop.

    But it ain't happenin'.

  • Bliquid

    Can someone give a rough idea of the length of this first episode?
    I'm very tempted, but i'd like it to be a little longer than an hour for a first playthrough.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Nader

      It's about 4 - 5 hours or more depending on how you play it

      • Bliquid

        Enough 4 me.
        Thanks, gonna grab it.

  • deepblueocean84

    The voice acting made me laugh. They sound like each of them just got out of a halfway house, specially the girl. Other then that it looks great.

  • Taclys

    I don't know why I get the feeling from the trailer that you play in an empty world. Seems unfurnished in the trailer. Gameplay is very different, with nice scenery, plenty of NPCs to talk to, and great graphics. Obviously not Infinity Blade graphics, but they're still fantastic, and stylized. I like them a lot.

    Gameplay is awesome and incredibly varied. You don't just fight the whole time, you don't just grapple the whole time, you don't just do stealth missions the whole time. You do them all, a lot, and it feels very balanced. I also appreciate giving the main character some issues, some back story, and having an intriguing plot. I've been playing for 3-4 hours so far, and am finishing up chapter 4/7 I believe. For $5, that's great value.

    Probably the best iOS game I've seen this year. Thank you, devs, for putting the time into this game! I have some minor complaints (posted in the forum) but nothing substantial, or that can't be easily fixed.

    Also also also: no IAPs!

  • Fybre0ptix

    Reading the apps description: "... console quality visual effects such as bloom ..."

    Lol, bloom. I can't wait until the PS4 and XbO are released and the devs keep spouting "console quality!!!1!" while the consoles are using ambient occlusion, high resolution textures, indirect illumination and displacement mapping (hopefully I'm right about the latter. I'm pretty sure I saw it in the Destiny gameplay video, though it could've been parallax occlusion mapping). Will be quite funny for me (in an eye rolling kinda way).

    Though hopefully there will be a day in the next 5 years that I read "console quality visual effects such as SSAO and displacement mapping" in an app description. Insta-cream + insta-download.