After a reasonably successful tour of the Caribbean aboard the good ship Android, BackStab’s hero Henry Blake has jumped ship to the iPhone, bringing with him freerunning action, combo-heavy swordplay, and more scurvy dogs than you can shake a cutlass at.
Sadly, Henry's not managed to free himself of the problems that made his Xperia Play-based adventure such a bumpy ride.
Like all good yarns, Henry Blake’s tale is one of bravery, betrayal, revenge, and redemption – all shot through with mixture of rum, blood, and seawater.
Sick as a parrot
Blake is a former officer in the Royal Navy, but is stabbed in the back (hence the title, no doubt) by a man he once considered a friend.
What follows is an epic quest to claim vengeance, set in tropical territories contested by both the British and the Spanish navies.
BackStab’s gameplay is a combination of 3D platforming and combat, with occasional ship-on-ship engagements where you control some seriously powerful cannons.
Blake was clearly taught a thing or two in the Navy about freerunning over buildings, and displays the agility and grace of a monkey who has stolen a large consignment of fresh bananas from an angry market vendor.
Look before you leap
The problem is that controlling this jumping, leaping, bounding character is easier said than done on the iPhone’s touchscreen display. While the Xperia Play edition benefited from proper buttons and a precise D-pad, Apple’s device has to make do with indistinct virtual controls, which crowd an already packed screen.
It’s not entirely impossible to adapt, but the complex nature of BackStab’s more testing moments can make you curse the lack of physical inputs.
It can’t be helped that the iPhone lacks the Xperia Play’s controls, but one problem that should have been remedied – and sadly hasn’t - is BackStab’s skittish and unpredictable technical performance.
Although we noticed a slight improvement in overall stability, BackStab still creeks and shudders during intense moments, like a Royal Navy galleon about to turn turtle and sink beneath the waves.
We were also sad to note that numerous bugs (such as characters passing straight through other characters, women falling to the ground yelling like men, and frustratingly inconsistent hit detection) also remain, totally untouched from the Android instalment.
BackStab remains a rough gem then, but it’s still worth pointing out that it boasts excellent graphics, high production values, and a rousing, enjoyable adventure – if you can stomach riding the tumultuous oceans generated by its less-than-stellar controls and buggy game engine.