Over the 18 months or so I've had my iPhone, I've built up a large collection of games from a number of different genres. Oddly enough, one game type I didn't possess was an old fashioned 2D fighting game. A quick download of Brutal Fantasy: The Orcs of Undermountain soon rectified that.
Plot-wise, the game is a fairly traditional hack-em-up in the style of Golden Axe. Orcs have taken over your village and slaughtered its inhabitants. You set off to take your revenge against them, which is done by hacking your way through hordes of attacking orcs on your way to the showdown with their boss. In order to progress to the next level, you need to survive the waves of enemies that attack you. Thankfully, when killed, orcs will drop helpful items such as food (to restore a bit of health), jewellery (for extra points) or magic potions (to kill more enemies).
The first thing that grabs your attention about Brutal Fantasy is the top notch presentation. Whether it's the dark, oppressive title screen or the fantastic comic-book style panels that outline the basic story, this is a game which looks fantastic. The artwork may not be of the highest artistic quality, but it is very appropriate to the game and helps establish a suitably foreboding atmosphere.
In-game graphics are not quite as impressive, but still well suited to the game. The main character graphics are pleasingly large sprites of exactly the kind you would expect to see from an old-fashioned beat-em-up. They are well drawn and stand out well against the 2D backdrops. The muted colours used for both character graphics and backgrounds add to the slightly grimy, gritty feel that this tale of vengeance is aiming for. There's even a pleasing splash of the crimson stuff as you hack at an enemy and, when you finally defeat them, they explode in a satisfying shower of limbs! The game really captures the feel of those old 2D brawlers like Golden Axe - one of my all time favourite arcade games.
True, the animation is a little crude. When characters move further into the screen, there is no scaling to speak of, so they remain the same size whether they are towards the back of the screen or at the front. Similarly, their arm and leg movement is rather jerky, like they are made up of one of those crude children's drawings where split pins are used to make movable arms and legs! Actually, though, this gives them a bit of character and overall the big, bold, cartoon-like graphics work very well, despite their slight crudeness.
Sound is similarly of very high quality. There are a number of different in-game tunes accompanying the action ranging from medieval style themes to more rock style tunes and these are all excellent and really suit the frenetic pace of the game. Sound effects are also basic, but appropriate, with some convincing noises for the various weapons (such as the clink of metal from your sword) and suitably squelchy noises when you draw blood from an enemy.
Controls have been really well implemented, and give a huge degree of control over your character. They are based around a virtual joystick which has not always been used successfully on the iPhone in the past, but here it's been well done. The arrows controlling character movement are well spaced, meaning that you don't accidentally hit the wrong key and get yourself in trouble; however they are not too far apart so that combining them (e.g. pressing left and up to move diagonally left) is easy. Similarly, the buttons to slash with your weapon, use your magic or block enemy shots are well spaced, easy to identify quickly and very responsive. The virtual joystick has been the death knell of many iPhone games, Brutal Fantasy gets them right.
What doesn't score quite so highly is the core game play. Each level boils down to little more than moving from left to right on a (mostly) static screen and defeating a set number of enemies before you repeat the process on the next level. The ability to collect items and upgrade your weaponry (in the inter-level shop) is a nice touch and ensures you have a fighting chance later on when opponents get tougher, but it can't hide the fact that the game lacks variety and quickly becomes repetitive.
It's a fun game to play in short bursts of five or ten minutes, but it's not one that most people are going to spend hours with. It also lacks much in terms of long term playability and it's probably a game that you will play quite a bit for the first few days after you download it, and then hardly ever return to once you get bored. Certainly, although it's still on my phone, I haven't played it for a good few months now and can't really see myself returning to it any time soon. Still, it's relatively cheap at £1.49 and if you're a fan of Golden Axe style games, it's about the best of its kind I've found for the iPhone.
Sprite detection is also a dodgy and makes the game a little too easy at times. For example, you can be standing with your back to an opponent, or clearly out of range, yet when you slash with your dagger, they suffer injury anyway. You can actually use this to your advantage, letting your enemies get into a huddle before viciously attacking them en masse, confident in the knowledge you will hit them all! This offers a slightly sneaky and fairly simple method of making easy progress through the game.
On the plus side, the game play is surprisingly cathartic. If you've had a stressful time at work, then there's nothing more satisfying than loading this up and hacking a few limbs of some nasty orcs! Five minutes or so of this (imagining the marauding orcs are your work colleagues!) and you'll soon find yourself feeling a lot less stressed.
Thanks to its cheap download price, you can easily overlook the lack of variety or long term playability. If you enjoyed the hack and slash game play of Golden Axe, then Brutal Fantasy will satisfy your urge for some violent, shallow, but fun game play.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2011