I'm not going to lie. One of the things that attracts me to a game, in the ocean of choice that is the App Store, is stylish presentation. While I'm certainly known to check into games with faces only a mother could love, sometimes a game's look grabs me, even when I should know better. Such is unfortunately the case with Soul Savior [$0.99], a game that seems really cool and fresh from its description but ends up being anything but.
The first thing that will grab you with the game is its cool art style. It's like a cross between a Cave shooter and the gorgeous El Shaddai, which in hindsight should have been a sign of things to come. You play as a fallen angel who looks like he just had his face in a jam jar, trying to make his way back to heaven, and gathering as many souls as possible on the way. The story setup is explained via scrolling text while a really nice bit of music plays. Once you start the game, you'll immediately notice how nice the sprite-based graphics are, with large and detailed enemies and a cool looking main character. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the end of the good stuff.
From the screenshots, it looks like some sort of crazy shooter. It's not, though it certainly shares some traits with that genre. It's actually closest to the infinite runner genre, which is great because this morning I swung a dead cat and didn't hit one. Wait, I apologize, I said I wasn't going to lie. Anyway, the way the game works is that you are flying through vertical stages that actually don't feel like they'd be out of place in a shooter. Enemies and obstacles come down the screen at you, and you have to tilt to dodge to them. Initially, your character can take two hits, but after that, he's out.
Occasionally, these sections are broken up by some proper on-foot running and boss fights. The on-foot sections are basically short bonus areas, allowing you to pick up some extra souls. The boss fights require you to avoid their attacks and position yourself correctly to attack them when they swoop into your range. The bosses are actually pretty interesting. They're big and intricately designed, and Soul Savior feels most like a shooter when you're fighting them. Unfortunately, they don't last very long, and you'll soon be back to the flying.
Pretty much everything else you'd expect from a runner is here. You have an assortment of power ups that could almost come directly from Temple Run's manual, with a currency magnet, dash forward, and invincibility power-up, among others. The most interesting power-up actually grants you a painfully brief period where you can shoot down obstacles and enemies. As you'd expect, you can increase the duration of all of these power-ups by spending the game's currency, souls. The cost of doing so escalates very quickly, however, and your souls might be better spent elsewhere, like continuing your game if you are taken down.
As you play, you'll collect tons of souls. They are thankfully the only currency in the game, and they can be used as mentioned to buy shop items or continue at an ever-increasing cost. The one interesting thing Soul Savior brings to table is that your souls carry over from game to game. You could theoretically stockpile souls from numerous runs and use them in a single run to carry you farther via continues. You really have to consider how you want to spend your souls, because you never really seem to have enough. Given you can buy souls via IAP, it's probably no accident.
The game gives you a choice of tilt controls or touch, something I'm always glad to see. While I'm personally not the biggest fan of tilt controls in a game like this, the controls work well enough here. The only real issue I had is that my screen would sometimes darken and get ready to go to sleep while I was playing, since you never need to touch the screen during gameplay in tilt mode. As a result, I tended to favor touch controls, but it's really up to you. The real bugbear when it comes to this game is the size of your sprite. He's big and beautiful, but his hit box is equally large, and that quickly becomes a problem. Combined with an incredibly short post-hit invincibility window and some less-than-fair obstacle layouts, it's pretty easy to go down at any given moment.
As usual for the genre, the game offers a variety of missions to complete as you soar through the skies. Completing them adds to your score multiplier, but it really does a poor job of illustrating that. One of the most important things in this genre is to give the player a great sense of reward for completing missions or beating high scores. It's vital to really sell that multiplier increase, but here I had to double-check to even figure out what finishing the missions did for me, because it appeared to be doing nothing.
It's too bad, because the game really is striking. The look is great, the music is really nice, and I love the concept. However, even taken as a runner, it's a bit too stingy with its all-purpose currency, it's too common for your run to end in unreasonable ways, and it just doesn't do a good job of rewarding you for your efforts. With so many choices at your disposal in this genre, it's very hard to make a case for spending your time or money on Soul Savior, no matter how cool it looks.
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