Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is well-known for its lush graphics and grand set-pieces. While it owes a lot to titles like Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia – not to mention the Indiana Jones movies – it succeeds in having its own distinct voice.
Meanwhile, Gameloft’s ‘tribute’ to Drake’s globe-trotting antics never quite speaks for itself. Which is hardly surprising, considering what it's overtly squaring itself up to. Even so, some players will find solace in the game’s functional pacing and decent adventuring.
The visuals are the most impressive feature of the game, and the most immediately arresting. The characters are well-animated, if a little expressionless, and the environments are finely crafted and fairly structured.
Although this ‘structure’ is mostly designed to keep you on a single path for the whole game, the graphical details surrounding it – the flickers of fire and smoke – are neat touches.
It’s a shame that the music and voice acting doesn't match up, with your main character Jason Call apparently losing his voice two minutes into the game, leaving you to read constant subtitles. Meanwhile, the music is bland and choppy and sometimes vanishes completely in the middle of an otherwise tense crescendo.
As with every other element of the game, the combat takes its cue from Uncharted, with shooting from behind cover being the essential tactic. Sadly, while the Xperia Play’s controls work well for the climbing and puzzle sections, they aren’t half as reliable during a firefight.
The right touchpad lets you aim, but this method is almost unusable. The alternative is to auto-aim using the left shoulder trigger, but this itself presents its own stuttering difficulties at times, and it still doesn't let you fine-tune your shots.
The puzzle sections, which see Jason Call clambering over ruins and statues, fare much better in terms of controls.
These sections will keep fans of tomb-raiding happy, although the game has a tendency to interrupt you and hold your hand the whole way from A to B to Z, with Jason making incessant suggestions to himself (or maybe it’s his sidekick Natasha from over the radio – you can’t tell when the voices are gone).
The game’s story, gameplay, sounds, lighting, design, music, and animation do an adequate job of mimicking Uncharted on mobile, which will either impress or repel you depending on your attitude to Gameloft's approach to game creation.
Shadow Guardian HD is a solid and playable action-adventure, and it may well be the best game of its kind on Android, but it never quite lives up to its own ambition. In short, it's like Uncharted without the narrative interest, the charm, and the well-executed controls.