Gleam of Fire($3.99) is the first mobile game for developer Su Min Kim, who is obviously someone who knows how to make a spectacular entrance. If you have any questions about the game head over to our forums where the developer is happy to answer and listen to your feedback- Always something we love seeing. The premise of the game is simple, its nothing more than an adventure platformer, but that’s ok because it is a very good platformer and doesn’t need any fancy gimmick to draw the player in. You move through each level lighting torches with your arrow. Game play is easy to pick up, you walk horizontally in any direction and jump or drop down vertically to move from layer to layer. You have a normal attack, special attack and dodge, helping you move through obstacles and monsters. The game itself however, is not so easy, be warned, you are going to die, a lot.
Every death sees you starting the current level from the beginning and doing the whole thing again, which can become a little frustrating, especially if you could see the end of the level before you died. You have no choice but to keep trying and ′git gud′. A lot of the game play relies very heavily on timing, one moments delay, one movement too early, and you will be taking damage. The only real issue within Gleam of Fire is for a game which relies so heavily on the timing, the movement of the hero can be a little awkward.
The right touch controls work well, you can jump attack and dodge with no issues at all. On the other hand (its a subtle pun, don’t miss it) the left touch control for movement has a very poor ergonomic feel. It feels somewhat cramped in the left corner and I needed to hold my thumb in an odd position. As well as the cramped feel to control the vertical movement, your avatar has no acceleration or deceleration, you simply move or stay still. Personally the speed of movement is less of an issue for me than the cumbersome positioning of my left thumb. Your milage may vary on this though, particularly depending on your normal posture when holding your device while playing a game with virtual controls.
Gleam of Fire is a game with huge potential, despite the issue of horizontal movement, it is a game I keep going back to and spending sizeable chunks of my day playing. I find myself drawn into the game’s world time and time again, in large part, due to the graphics. The gothic looking design works well, everything is in shades of black and blue against a moonlight background. As you kill silhouetted creatures, their blood leaves bright streaks of red upon the blackened ground.
You play an avatar best described as an ageing Batman with a radioactive potbelly (which reminds me of a Gotham based burlesque show I recently attended where the finale was a beer bellied Batman in platform boots). You move through the world with your, one speed, Not-Batman, looking for the portal to the next level and lighting torches along the way. There are three torches hidden in each stage, each one giving you one star on level completion. You can finish the stage with out finding them all, it just means you just will be missing a star, or two for that level.
There are three worlds to get through, each with ten levels and a boss fight. Even making it through the first world is difficult, but after giving it a go every day, I made my way to that first boss fight. I′ll mention again here it isn’t an easy game. If you are finding a level particularly difficult try upgrading Not-Batman. Unless I missed some obvious directions when I started my first play-through the upgrade button can be a little difficult to find. You will find it on the top of the menu screen and you use the stars, and the little light orbs you collect through each level for upgrades. The options are very simple, health, mana, normal attack and each of your special attacks can be increased.
The levels do get progressively harder, so it is a good idea to check in and upgrade your avatar often. Just when you get use to the type of monsters you are dealing with POW, BAM, Not-Batman runs straight into something new. The awesome thing is you can run, the monsters do not track or chase you. They also do not change positions when you die and restart the level, which means eventually, you will know where things are and be able to avoid or prepare as required.
The App Store description had me squealing with excitement, clapping and cheering for a metroidvania game. It certainly had that look, had that feel, however, Gleam of Fire is missing two key components of the true metroidvania style. The first missing element is worlds do not appear to interconnect becoming one huge world you move back and forth through. The second, and in my opinion, most important ingredient missing is the ability to backtrack to previously unreachable places as you pick up new abilities and skills.
It does tick the metroidvania boxes of side view 2D graphics and rewarded exploration with hidden rooms and obstacles to find. These components combine with the visual aesthetics to make a great and highly enjoyable game, even with the two omissions from the highly sought after genre. Gleam of Fire is an awesome and challenging adventure, one I am very happy to be taking and urge you to embark upon yourself. If you are a fan of 2D platformers, challenging game-play, and the (admittedly lightly linked) metroidvania genre, you definitely want to give it a go. I guarantee, if you download it you will not be disappointed, and honestly Not-Batman could use your help, I keep getting him killed.