It may seem familiar to anyone with a PlayStation 3, but Shadow Guardian is uncharted territory for iPhone and iPod touch.
The game's elaborate blend of exploration, platforming, and visceral action tests the platforms' limits. Graphically it pushes the devices, yet it's more about squeezing a console experience - complete with complex contextual controls, in-depth story, and slick action sequences - onto devices built for simplicity.
No corners are being cut, no shortcuts taken, and no features left by the side of the road - Shadow Guardian is inspired by the tomb-raiding, temple-exploring, jungle shootout epics that have captured the imagination on consoles.
While it requires fine-tuning and polish to remove the rough edges, there's much to anticipate in this high energy adventure.
Raider of lost artifacts
As affable Jason Cole, you're swept up in a quest for legendary artefacts before another more sinister treasure hunter discovers them first. From the streets of Alexandria to the sands of Egypt, and even an underwater temple in the middle of the Red Sea, the approximately four-hour campaign jets you across the modern world in search of the relics.
Equal parts shooter and platformer, Shadow Guardian is as much about outsmarting armed guards and defeating mythical creatures as it is scouting ruins and navigating secret passageways.
An effort has been made to ensure exploration is seamless and slick, plenty of contextual prompts making it easy to climb walls and jump across precipitous gaps.
Exploring unique locations like the Medusa Temple submerged in the Red Sea is sure to be a blast. Bypassing traps and solving puzzles by directing rays of light to unlock areas of the temple should be a real challenge.
A gun to a fist fight
Platforming and combat aren't always mutually exclusive. Scouring Egyptian ruins in the city of Luxor, for example, means climbing columns and shimmying across ledges while avoiding enemy fire.
Combat includes both weapons and fisticuffs, allowing you to switch between shootouts and punchouts at will. The gun play requires work, though, and weapons felt inaccurate when fired.
Targeting didn't seem to work well when under cover (you can take shelter behind waist-high objects by tapping an 'action' button that flashes on the right side of the screen), forcing me to exit cover and fire on enemies out in the open.
Close-quarters combat is better, yet here too the mechanics need tweaking. Jason automatically punches and kicks enemies within range rather than firing his equipped gun -however, it doesn't feel tight as expected.
Room for improvement
For Shadow Guardian to truly impress, the action has to be tightened up. While enjoyable in its current state, it feels unpolished. Tweaking close-quarters combat and improving the responsiveness of the weapons should address this.
In every other regard - especially the graphics - Shadow Guardian is on the right path. Not only does it address a desire for action-packed adventuring on iPhone and iPod touch, it promises to do so with style. With time left before the game's early 2011 release, it's reasonable to anticipate improvements that could make it a blockbuster.Shadow Guardian will be available for iPhone and iPod touch at the beginning of next year. No price has yet been announced.
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