It’s easy to write off mobile games as nothing but greedy cash grabs and endless clones of Flappy Bird and Candy Crush. However, there are a few mobile games which rise above their peers and are every bit as solid as anything seen on console and PC. All the same, one can’t help but feel that fast-paced platformers lend themselves better to either a keyboard or joypad and a large screen. Shadow Blade: Reload is one such example of a very good mobile platformer made better by being ported.
The game places players in a strange world that’s a mixture of futuristic cyberpunk and medieval Japan sensibilities. Controlling a student ninja named Kuro, they seek to destroy an order of ruthless thugs who attacked Kuro’s dojo and sensei in their mad search for a medallion that will give them dangerous, almost god-like powers. Kuro will take on robots and armed soldiers with good, old-fashioned ninja skills, all while uncovering a twisted and convoluted plot told though a wonderfully cheesy comic book format.
Unclear and hidden dangers
Shadow Blade: Reload is a 2D platform offering with a faux 3D look. Players guide an extremely athletic Kuro through a series of small to medium-sized levels as he simply searches for the exit or, occasionally, a specific enemy to slaughter. Our dear Kuro wields his sword masterfully as he slices and stabs his way through the roster of bad guys, most of whom don’t pose too much of a threat to an alert and capable ninja. He also dashes and clings to walls like a professional, and before long you’ll be traversing the levels and their obstacles with all the grace and elegance of a cat.
Reaching the goal is sufficient, but there’s a strong incentive to tackle the levels like a master. Hidden throughout are little orbs of light, all of which count towards an end-of-level tally. Each stage also has a few hidden kanji, similar to the Yoshi Coins from Super Mario World, and again snagging them all will count towards a player’s bragging rights. Making it to the end in the quickest time and without dying are also goals worth reaching. It gives the whole affair a strong sense of replay value. If that’s not enough, there’s a “hardcore” mode once you’ve taken care of the campaign, as well as a super-hard “master class” mode if you reckon you’ve got what it takes. A selection of short “challenges” and a leader board all help to insure you’ll be enjoying this one for quite some time to come.
Live by the sword, kill by the sword
Those who enjoyed the original game on mobile will be pleased to find a whole slew of improvements available in this edition. Graphics have been noticeably improved, as have the controls from their touchscreen incarnation. There’s more on offer in the level department, and some maps have gotten a tweak or two. A very minor complaint is that the level design occasionally feels a bit cheap in the enemy and trap replacement, but it’s too infrequent to truly be an issue. Besides, a level editor is now included if you think you can craft a better level.
Shadow Blade: Reload is quite the attractive little nugget. Graphics have an interesting style: extremely colorful, but not pixel art, not cartoon-like, and certainly not realistic. It’s a bit of a blend between polygon models and a somewhat line-less, comic book style. Though a great sight to behold, I found that sometimes there was just too much stuff on the screen, and too many things happening at once. It kind of overloads the eyes as they bounce around, looking at different details. Nonetheless, it looks gorgeous, both in screenshots and in motion. On the audio side of things, we have winners all around: sound effects are meaty and satisfying, especially the enemies when they gurgle as Kuro sticks his sword into their bodies with a robust “schlink”. The music consists of oriental-sounding chimes and strings, and the various mixtures with other styles remain surprisingly relaxing considering the fast-paced nature of the game. Ultimately, it’s as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes.
Shadow Blade: Reload is a superb platformer with buttery-smooth controls, great combat, and perfectly-sized levels. It’s a great example of how well mobile games can translate onto PC and consoles, and is a solid showcase of how old and new ideas can mesh together quite flawlessly with enough love and attention. It’s an underrated classic that definitely deserves a lot more love and attention that what it received. If you’re craving some comic book-style ninja action, then we highly recommend you sneak on over to its official Steam page to rescue a copy of your very own. Absolutely the best!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: iOS, Android, Mac, PS4, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Digital Dragon ; Developer: Dead Mage ; Players: single-player. ; Released: 10th of August, 2015.
Full disclosure: this review is based on a review key for Shadow Blade: Reload given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.