968752_largerWhile I'm a fan of action-RPGs on iOS, I always seem to encounter the same problem while playing them: an incessant forcing of the 'console experience' on a touch-screen device.

This usually means an abundance of virtual buttons and gameplay that may not be conducive to portable devices. It also doesn't help that original IPs never seem to put forth the necessary effort to make a compelling narrative. Pixel Hero Games' Spiral Episode 1 [$3.99] looks to buck all the negative trends I just mentioned, and succeeds beautifully.

Taking the Unreal Engine and fusing it with its own art style, the graphics in Spiral look pretty darn good. A mix of futuristic themes and anime undertones, Spiral actually has a bit of a darker motif, which goes well with the game's overall narrative. One minor annoyance was the fact that a lot of the game's NPCs had similar facial features, but detailed models, a smooth framerate and (mostly) decent voice acting does a good job of covering it up.

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Another area that Spiral succeeds at is with its controls. Eschewing any virtual buttons (with the exception of those launching menus), players move their hero by tapping anywhere on the screen to move to that spot. Double-tapping has him running, and tap-and-holding engages an auto-walk (or run) that you can control by sliding your finger across the screen.

It's pretty intuitive and while it blocks a lot of the screen on an iPhone, it works well on a larger screen. Combat, meanwhile, is as simple as tapping on enemies for normal attacks, double taps for dodging and tap-and-hold for special moves. It works well, although the more hectic battles got a little tough to keep the aim on enemies in motion.

mzl.russkkseRegardless, I found the combat to be pretty awesome with plenty of different ways to attack enemies and enough defensive and offensive moves to make battles interesting. I'm also a fan of the experience system, which allows players to allocate experience across a multitude of stats and will even automatically assign points through either a balanced approach or an 'auto' approach that analyzes your battle tendencies and attempts to level up your strengths. As for enemy variety, there isn't as much as I'd like, but the epic boss battles make up for the relatively tame normal encounters.

Besides the combat aspects, Spiral also has good variety with its gameplay. In addition to battles, players will also take part in platforming, stealth, and exploration sections in the game. Spiral does a great job of interspersing the right amount of variety between the various elements, meaning that players won't get bored with overtly long stealth or platforming sections, as there's usually a decent amount of combat to mix it up.

Spiral hits all the right notes with gameplay execution, but for me, I'm most impressed with the storyline. Following the exploits of Tempus Azure, a mercenary for hire with technological implants and a mysterious path, Episode 1 introduces the 'Spiral' disease, an affliction that turns citizens into ravenous beings of pure energy. Tempus goes on an adventure to discover the origins of the Spiral disease while attempting to figure out why his own body has been deteriorating.

Spiral is one of the few iOS games I've played where I was not only intrigued by the storyline, but I was sad to see the game end. As you can gather from its name, Episode One is the first in a multi-part story, and I'm pretty curious to see what developments the next episode will bring. For me, this desire is a significant accomplishment and I applaud Spiral for getting it done right.

As you can tell, I'm a pretty big fan of Spiral Episode 1. Not only does it do a great job translating the action-RPG experience to the touch-screen with its controls, but its graphics, combat mechanics, and overall presentation give it a sheen of high quality. The game's narrative does a great job wrapping all of Spiral's components together in a story that's not only compelling but also just interesting. If any of this sounds remotely up your alley, you need to check out Spiral Episode 1.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Lazyninja7

    This game looks awesome. I think 2013 should be a great year in iOS gaming :)

    • WarMachine

      Its a great year for ALL gaming.

  • wildperson

    The polish in this game is outstanding.
    My one hope from an update is the addition of a joystick option. Trying to move on an iPhone is near laughable, what with just a screen full of finger.

  • Gurney Halleck

    Really loving this so far! Easy to recommend, even at full price ;)

  • hourglass

    Loading times weren't all that impressive.

    • XvEsunavX

      Part of gaming sadly. Every LoL game I play I swear two people are using ti-86 calculators. And while a moba has an excuse in that respect, what's everybody in such a rush for? Most things that are worthwhile take some time.

      Not a bash on you, just my way of saying if the experience is worth it, the load time is justified.

      • hourglass

        I played Spiral for about ten seconds. Then I decided that it wasn't worth the loading times.

        XCOM also has long loading times, but it's actually worth it.

      • Hobbsicle

        It gets really good at 15 seconds.

      • hourglass

        The average League game doesn't take as long to complete as Spiral does to load. Who do you play with? xD

    • XvEsunavX

      I forgot to ask what device youre playing on. Could be used to judge if people can expect faster or slower load time.

      • hourglass

        Latest generation iPod Touch.

    • wildperson

      For me, on itouch 5th gen, the only outrageous load time is when the app is loading. The fight cinematic plays a good 4 times before the main menu loads.

      • Doctorossi

        "the only outrageous load time is when the app is loading"

        Yeah, when its loading is definitely the worst loading time. ;)

      • hourglass

        It's longer than that. Much longer.

    • Taclys

      Infinity Blade wasn't much better, if any, and people didn't complain.

      Anyways, spot on review. All points listed I agree with. Anxiously await to get my hands on Episode 2. Might I also add that (at least on game launch) the devs were incredibly active in the forum? I was getting immediate replies from them. Fantastic game, sad that Xcom stole the spotlight that week.

      • hourglass

        Infinity Blade was a work of art. This is kind of ugly, truth be told.

    • themostunclean

      I've also only had an issue with launch load being too long. At first I thought it was stuck.

      Other load times are 3-5 seconds on iPhone 5, 5-8 on iPad 2 (assuming the same on iPad mini, 4S and Touch 5G since they all have the same guts).

      If anyone thinks those load times are excessive then they've either never played a console game or need to refill their Adderall prescription.

  • Gurney Halleck

    Also, great review Eric Ford :) I agree with most of not all of your critique. What a fun game!

    • Boobi

      Yup great review picked it up.

  • loophole

    Please buy this! Everything about is outstanding the story the combat controls graphics etc.

  • philodygmn

    Excellent game. Innovative controls, phenomenal animation, varied cinematic gameplay scenarios, intriguing story. Buy this game—even if it's not on sale.

  • Klonis

    A masterpiece for our mobile devices!!

  • Chris Brady

    This is a great game, can't wait for the other parts of it. I hope they get better voice jobs, though. Some of the deliveries were, as they say, phoned in. But I recommend this game to anyone with a iTouch device.

    One last thing, Tempus is referred to as a Private Investigator in the game.

  • Catacul

    One of the best RPG in the AppStore. Everyone should buy this ASAP.

  • hourglass

    Takes too long to load, and controls suck.

    • Taclys

      Where's the down vote button on an iPad? Seriously. Would you prefer virtual buttons, one for each move, filling the entire side of the screen? Because then you'd whine about those controls too. These are intuitive and well thought out.

  • daftman

    Almost bought this while it was on sale but then realized I didn't have near enough room for it :( I wish now I had bought it in iTunes or something. Didn't think of that at the time...

  • themostunclean

    Agree with most of the review except about the voice acting. It's wooden and unemotional pretty much across the board. Even the main character, Tempus, is way below average.

  • worldcitizen1919

    It looks great but I hate the controls and have deleted it. I waited for an update but no better. Camera and movement is all out of whack. I dislike tap to move. Why can't devs just make a proper virtual stick and be done with it?

Spiral Episode 1 Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5