Swordigo Hacks and Slashes Its Way to a Platformer World of Exploration

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Adventure, Platformer, RPG

What would you get if you combined the adventure and exploration of Zelda with the arcade antics of Mario Bros?  You’d likely get Touch Foo’s Swordigo, a wonderfully fun and surprisingly deep platformer that ranks as one of the best of the genre to date on the iOS.  Filled with puzzles, quests and of course battles, Swordigo is an impressive game incorporated in a vast world with a good dose of RPG elements.

Set in the village of Cairnwood, the main character in Swordigo is an apprentice who finds himself thrust into the role of hero after his master is killed by the Corruptors, an evil legion intent on conquest.  Throughout the adventure, quests and battles will take you through worlds where locating treasure is just the tip of the peasant iceberg.

An effective platformer is often able to create a world that not only engages the player, but also provides a lasting effect.  Presented in 2.5D, the world in Swordigo has a unique charm and allure that takes on a life of its own.  From lighting effects to textures, each of the environments is filled with details that help the game stand on its own.  Running this on an iPad, the animation is smooth with good sense of depth.  Whether it’s the isolation of an abandoned castle or simply the wind blowing through the trees, Swordigo is one of charm and allure.

Of course, the hack and slash nature of the battle scenes make Swordigo even better.  The control scheme is pretty straightforward with left and right buttons for movement and action buttons for such things as jumping, sword hacking and slashing, moving/holding items, and conjuring magic spells. The button placement is customizable, and you’ll likely want to move the hack and slash button away a bit from the jump button which can inadvertently be hit.

Swordigo has an intuitive inventory system to keep track of acquired items as well as RPG elements.  From this area, players can also keep track of quests which are presented as conversations.

Something that sets Swordigo apart from the typical platformer is how the game is presented.  Unlike other platformers which are broken into different levels, Swordigo is one giant world presented at your footsteps for discovery.  For the player, this firmly and effectively establishes that feeling of mystery and exploration.  As levels are completed, other areas and places are revealed.

The RPG elements are another area that not only provides another layer of complexity to the game, but helps balance out the flow of the gameplay.    These elements focus on Health, Sword, and Magic.  For Health, you can increase longevity which will come in handy as the levels become more complex and difficult.  Sword boosts the damage inflicted on enemies.  Magic, which is represented by a meter in the HUD and gradually recharges after each use, can be recharged faster with allocating more points to this element.  The elements are easily customizable and designed with the casual gamer in mind within a user-friendly screen.

In Swordigo’s world, adventure is core to the enjoyment of the game.  Players will find plenty to explore.  Crystal shards can be acquired along the way which can be used to purchase health potions and weapons from the village store.  In addition, health and magic potions can also be found on the journey by destroying enemies, but also on occasion from cutting down plants.

Speaking of enemies, there are more than enough dangers lurking.  The living and breathing ones include a variety of giant grass spiders, cave crawlers, man-eating snapper plants, boulder shooting tortoises, and spike-laden turtles among others.

The bosses themselves can be pretty ruthless, and given the way the “levels” are presented in Swordigo, can appear at the most surprising times.  With names such as Szan the Angry, Boulder the Golem, Zak the Bandit Leader, and Edogani the Deadly, these battles are intensely satisfying.

The world in Swordigo is begging for exploration with plenty of nooks and crannies for doing just that.  Treasure chests are located throughout, but most of the time, they’re well hidden, requiring a bit of digging.  In fact, you’ll find yourself at the end of a particular adventure quicker than expected and then turning around to locate your booty.  That’s the beauty of Swordigo—often, the simplest path isn’t the well chosen path.

While the game is designed so that it can be completed without the deeper exploration, most will find these hidden rewards worth the risk.  These treasures can range from more powerful swords and spells to tools and gadgets that make advancing much easier.  Players may even discover RPG elements within these areas so they’re definitely worth checking out.  For example, players will come across a chamber covered in purple slime that requires the dragon grasp spell.  Other times, more powerful spells such as missile and bomb spells supplement your arsenal.

As is typical with other platformers, there are side quests to be found.  Swordigo does a nice job of integrating other characters that provide advice and warnings along the way.  Other times, they can rather mundane and harmless.

The environments themselves are full of hidden doorways, switches, pressure plates, and moving platforms.  Often what you’ll find which players may find challenging and frustrating in the good sense is a locked door after making it through a dangerous set of obstacles.  Wouldn’t you know that the key happens to be located back on the other side of the obstacles?  Beyond the living and breathing enemies, the obstacles add to the character and enjoyment of Swordigo.  From swinging axes to randomly appearing spikes, getting through in one piece is a lot tougher than it looks.

Swordigo also incorporates a portal system so players can travel from one area to another relatively quickly.  This makes the treasure hunting process much more feasible for those of us who don’t have the patience of taking the long and treacherous way.

The gameplay in Swordigo is its core strength, and the fluid controls and the depth of the content are significant.  With plenty of areas to explore in its vast world, the hack and slash nature of the game give Swordigo the makings of an enduring classic.  As you level up your character, there’s a nice balance in the difficulty.  The sword wielding battles are both challenging and intense, but the game doesn’t insult your intelligence.  Players will face decisions in the path well chosen as well as logically solving puzzles and collecting the right pieces to do so.  Other times, success and failure comes to down to well-coordinated timing from jumping platforms to sword-blocking attacks.

Swordigo also has GameCenter and Openfeint scoreboards and if the depth of the game by itself isn’t enough, achievements.  Most players will likely forgo the achievements in the near term with the sole purpose of completing the game.

The game isn’t perfect, and these are more minor issues than game breaking ones.  For one, the checkpoint system seems a little awkward which is noticeable after your little apprentice hero is dispatched and then magically reappears.  There are times where it almost feels like you have to start the entire world over or simply dropped off at some random point.  On that note and not that I’m complaining, there isn’t a penalty for the apprentice hero’s demise which almost makes the game too easy for some because he regenerates with full health and collected crystal shards intact.  Visually speaking, during attacks on enemies, an oversized health and level-up status bars appears which can be distracting.  Finally, one potential annoyance is the ongoing beep when you’re running low on health which is similar to the tone found in some vehicles when you leave the keys in the ignition.

Swordigo is a deep and intense platformer combining strategic RPG elements within a charming adventure.  Effectively presented as a vast and mysterious world, Swordigo provides a graphically wonderful presentation with satisfying battles and exploration that should entice novices and advance players alike, keeping them engaged for hours.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (one of the best platformers available on the iOS with hours of content and gameplay; plethora of nooks and crannies worth exploring; simple, yet customizable controls; user-friendly RPG elements should appeal to all skill levels; GameCenter and Openfeint support)


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