Having played hundreds of action adventure games over the years, the thirst is still very much intact. To many people out there there’s only so many times you can adventure with Samus in space, or take an anthropomorphic rabbit on a quest to remember his past before you started to get winded of the concept. But every time I encounter a brand new 2D world, I feel like it’s a brand new challenge to undertake — a new excuse to get to know another universe. While the mechanics most definitely hold up, Soul of Sword ($0.99)’s world isn’t necessarily worth uncovering.
Beginning with a brief set of linear tutorials that also set up the story, players are thrust into a conflict involving a sacred sword and an evil spirit. Said tutorial is painless in all the right ways, showcasing the control scheme, the general concept of power-ups, and environmental happenstances like crate pushing. It’s all handled by way of a virtual d-pad and button conceit, which is only comprised of two actions (jump and attack), as well as a middle button that uses whatever power-up is on-screen at that given time.
Given how simple it is it works as advertised, but there is a small holdup with the jumping system. The avatar has this weird half a second pause that won’t allow players to move after landing, though you can jump in rapid succession. It’s such a small nitpick, as the rest of the buttons work flawlessly and far better than a lot of similar games on the market. Within minutes I was pulling off three-hit combos and dodging like a true swordsman. Platforming is relatively straight-forward but there are a few tricky jumps to master, and a double-jump power-up comes into play sometimes to mix things up.
It’s engaging and intuitive pretty much right away. Attacks and movement feel swift and responsive, and the open-ended questing gameplay slots right into place as a result. The RPG elements make themselves known immediately, which includes a town portal of sorts to return to the hub (albeit one-way). There are also standard tasks to complete for NPCs like " kill [x] enemies," though the general pacing of the game is more action than RPG, encouraging players to move on rather than linger in completed zones. I’m of two minds with this mentality, because while I can definitely appreciate the more urgent feel, it would have been nice to facilitate the RPG bits throughout the experience, because they are there and can’t be ignored.
The more you play though, the better it gets. New environments, while relatively tame and samey, give live to new enemies and hazards. Bosses in particular are fun to fight against (especially with some of the more advanced weaponry picked up later in the game), and feel more like intimate brawls given the zoomed-in camera focus. Rewards for besting these big bads are not nearly as cool as other games (mostly just gold), however.
While the action is interesting, in terms of a real narrative, don’t come in expecting much of anything. Any attempt to tell a cohesive tale is chiefly let down by the fact that the translation is really, really rough, and that’s putting it lightly. Not only do some story elements not make sense entirely, but regular sentences (just about every part of the script actually) are hard to understand. It’s not like you’re going to get lost while playing it or anything, mind, it’s just something to be aware of. Players shouldn’t have that much trouble piecing general concepts together and following the core storyline (like where to go next), but it’s a little rattling, to say the least.
Thankfully, there’s no IAP involved, which includes a lack of power-ups, timers, or anything related to story or chapter unlocks. And that sort of sums up what you’re getting with Soul of Sword. It’s a no-frills platformer that hearkens back to an era of simplicity, which comes with its own set of flaws and issues. But as someone who grew up during that era and has put up with worse, I could put up with those problems to find an interesting little surprise at the end of the tunnel.