In a few breaths the level is over.
I dart across some spikes, slash down through a breakable girder, and impale an unwary goon at the bottom of my fall. Then it's a few short leaps over collapsing platforms, a quick tap-tap-tap wall run, and I'm through the door and onto the next section.
Shadow Blade is a blisteringly fast action-platformer deliberately sliced up into speed-run sharpened sections, each tailored to inject a quick blast of gory, breathless excitement into your boring day.
Brilliant touch controls, a gorgeous look, and a difficulty curve that slices perfectly through the whole game combine to make the first must-have iOS platformer of 2014.
Shadow of the cool-ossus
You play as a masked ninja charged with delivering some information to your clan. That's as far as the plot gets before you're dropped into an intoxicating world of platforming potential.
Your leaps and sword slashes are all controlled with taps and slides. Swiping upwards makes you jump, with diagonals tossing you in that direction. You press and hold on the left or right of the screen to run in that direction, and tap a side to attack that way.
With this combination of moves you navigate through a world of tilting platforms, enormous spikes, and sniper rifle-wielding bad guys. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once everything clicks into place you'll be darting and slashing your way through tricky blocks of obstacles with style.
The game is effortlessly cool, and every move you perform makes you feel like an elite swordsman. The slashed-up levels mean your mistakes are never punished too harshly, and chasing better times means there's always a reason to go back and play more.
Shadow the ledge hog
You feel like you're constantly being dropped into miniature playgrounds, each full of branching potential for slaughter and fun. You don't need to kill the foes in all the levels, but there's something satisfying about the brutal combat that makes it hard to resist.
The route through each level is usually pretty clear, and there's a free-running feel as your fingers swipe and tap over the screen to send your sword-wielding hero darting this way and that, carving bad guys and dodging flying spikes as he goes.
The great level design draws on decades' worth of platforming history to create obstacle courses that you intuitively understand. For instance, large bumpers bounce you upwards, and disappearing platforms are marked with red.
And as you become more competent with the controls, new threats are thrown in. Homing missiles chase you around the screen, snipers take pot shots as you deal with foot soldiers, and glowing gold coins entice you into ever more dangerous manoeuvres.
There are different avenues to explore, too, and secret objects to find if you want to unlock all the medals on each level. Throw in a frankly ludicrous Hardcore mode and you're left with a platformer that delivers the goods every time you pick it up.
The only real problem with Shadow Blade is that it's a little on the short side. While the levels all offer a good chunk of replayability, a few more certainly wouldn't go amiss.
But as far as niggles go, that's a pretty small one. Shadow Blade is a slick, deliciously violent platformer with more poise and touchscreen panache that most of the rest of the App Store combined.