It's often been said that people fear what they don't know. Kroll proves otherwise. With the fewest of details, the game shot up to the heights of anticipation following its surprising debut six weeks ago. Now that we've played it, hype has turned into the hope that more iPhone games can achieve the same phenomenal visual quality, sleek design, and energetic gameplay.
Six of seven mage lords have been killed in the magical world of Leterna when the curtain lifts on Kroll. As the warrior Delon, you have been commissioned to exterminate the soul of Kroll, the mage lord of life. Reaching his remains requires hacking through demonic minions as you traverse nine side-scrolling stages across three chapters.
Translucent buttons line the sides of the touchscreen, three on each side. Two arrows buttons situated along the bottom move Delon forward and backward. Centered on both sides are fast attack buttons aimed left and right. Additionally, the two buttons at the top trigger heavy attacks. Killing enemies fills up a tiny power meter situated beneath Delon's health bar, which, when filled, increases his attack power. You can also unleash a special blast attack after filling the blast meter and then shaking your device; alternatively, you're able to tap Delon to instigate the attack.
Beating the beasts that rush toward Delon takes deft use of both heavy and fast attacks. Scuttling rock scorpions are easily dispatched with a fast attack or two, although more is needed to fell their lance-equipped big brothers. Squaring off against Kroll's guardian takes an entirely different set of tactics, however. Rather than button-mashing the villain to death, you're prompted to tap icons on the screen in a timed sequence. It's awfully simple, but mixes up the action admirably.
The controls are straightforward and designed in such a way that they never impede the action as it unfolds on the screen. Delon nearly always stays at the center, which makes it possible to tap away at the buttons with both thumbs without obstructing your view. Kroll stands as an example of proper touchscreen controls, but also demonstrates how action games are possible on iPhone. Instead of forcing a 3D bloodbath, its design is such that the game feels natural to the device. Side-scrolling action allows you to focus on fighting tough foes instead of dealing with nasty camera angles or complicated controls.
Of course, slick controls and energetic action aren't the only things that make this game great. Let's face it: there's nothing that even comes close on iPhone to matching the visual prowess Kroll boasts. From vistas of the open ocean to rivers of magma snaking through underground mines, the game fills the eyes with gorgeous scenes overflowing with colour and detail. The further you proceed, the more impressive the presentation gets. Even enemies, of which there are only a handful of varieties, possess striking detail. Small touches make all the difference too, with menus modelled after an ancient tome and sparkling special effects.
There's no doubt Digital Legends has established a new visual standard with Kroll and its gameplay is equally deserving of praise. Unfortunately, it ends all too soon. You can blast through this exceedingly short game in less than an hour. What's worse, the conclusion is so abrupt that you're not even sure the game has ended. Hard and Insane difficulty modes tease out replay value where there really isn't any. Investing some unlockable content, high score boards, or even a survival mode would have done much to instill some value to this slightly overpriced offering.
That doesn't stop Kroll from being an outstanding game; in fact, it's one of the best games on iPhone. We just can't wait to see what tweaks and additions its inevitable sequel will bring.