There’s nothing like a good zombie apocalypse. The undead are swarming, with zombies taking over books, comics, movies, television, and of course, video games. Between big-budget titles like Left 4 Dead and downloadable games Zombie Apocalypse and Burn Zombie Burn, it almost seems like there’s no place left in the industry for zombies to hide. Luckily, the iPad offers a new medium on which zombies can eat brains and take over the world, and it was only a matter of time before 2009 zombie-killing iPhone game Twin Blades made its way onto the larger Apple platform. However, instead of a mere port, the iPad version sports a graphical upgrade, and the bigger screen suits the hack-and-slash gameplay well.
Twin Blades HD is the story of Sister Angelika, a nun tasked with saving the town of Jalombe from being overrun with zombies by using a variety of weapons. She starts out with a scythe and handgun, but can eventually use zombie hearts to purchase additional weapons, or upgrade the ones she already has. Hearts, which serve as both currency and experience in Twin Blades, can also be attributed to Angelika’s stats, giving her more health and energy with which to use special weapons.
The early levels in Story Mode are straightforward and fairly easy, giving the player a chance to get used to the controls. A cursor in the lower left corner is used to run and jump, while icons on the right side of the screen are used to switch weapons, shoot, or slash. It’s pretty intuitive and, for the most part, works well, but using the cursor for movement can lead to some problems. Jumping was sticky at times, which can be perilous when being attacked, and moving your finger too far away will cause it to stop responding. This sometimes meant Sister Angelika would stop dead in her tracks with a swarm of zombies right behind her, and in the second it took me to realize why and try to fix it, I was being attacked.
Another issue I had with the control scheme was the fact that in order to free Angelika when zombies latch on, the player needs to shake the iPad until they back off. This probably works great with the iPhone, but the iPad is a fairly large (not to mention expensive) device, and shaking it is very awkward. It also makes it harder to jump back into the action after a few seconds of shaking, and it feels like there could have been an easier, more intuitive way to break away from zombie attacks.
Each level in Twin Blades is relatively short, making for great pick-up-and-play gameplay. The challenge really increases after the first handful of stages, and there is an additional Hard setting for those who master the Normal difficulty. Ultimately, though, the gameplay doesn’t change much from level to level, other than the addition of new weapons and harder zombies from time to time, making it pretty repetitive. There’s an additional Survival Mode, but it really doesn’t play much differently than Story Mode, and both are better in short bursts.
One thing that Twin Blades undeniably has going for it is the presentation. Developer BulkyPix has crafted another unique, artistic, and aesthetically pleasing visual style full of color and wonderful details. The zombie animations might be my favorite part; the undead shuffle towards Sister Angelika, arms outstretched, then fall to the ground when shot, decapitated, or cut in half. It’s a lighter approach to the zombie apocalypse, and the art style compliments the tone of the game well.
In short bursts, Twin Blades HD is a fun way to let off steam and kill some time. There’s something inherently entertaining about slashing limbs off zombies, or charring them with a flamethrower, and Twin Blades does manage to capture this feeling. However, the game does become pretty repetitive, and control issues also mar the experience, stopping it from becoming an addictive, must-have iPad game. It’s still worth a try, and may even be worth your $4.99, but if you’re the kind of gamer with little patience for endless hack-and-slash gameplay and imprecise touch screen controls, you might want to hold off on a purchase.