Game Reviews

Rage of the Gladiator

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar off
| Rage of the Gladiator
Rage of the Gladiator
| Rage of the Gladiator

Whoever decided to frame Glacius for the death of his father and throw him into a fight-to-the-death tournament clearly hadn't seen Ridley Scott's Gladiator.

If they had, they would have known that in such circumstances a bad-ass soldier with a chip on his shoulder is bound to come back to bite you.

Or stab you with a sword, as the case may be.

I, Glacius

That's the premise of Rage of the Gladiator, a brilliant new first-person scrapper from Gamelion.

Well, we say new, but it's actually been ported over from the Nintendo Wii console. Like World of Goo and LostWinds before it, though, the synergy between the Wii's motion controls and the iPad's large touchscreen makes for a relatively seamless conversion.

Here you're sent into one-on-one first-person combat with a string of colourful enemies culled from Greek mythology and beyond. As with Infinity Blade, each enemy is a potentially deadly foe who must be studied and defended against before any attacks can be made.

There's a 'shield' button centrally placed at the bottom of the screen for your bog-standard block, but the key to the game is dodging left or right by pressing the lower corners of the screen.

Window of opportunity

When you successfully dodge an enemy attack in this way, a small window opens up in which you can launch a flurry of attacks uncontested.

You launch these attacks by swiping left or right in the upper or lower half of the screen, which will initiate weapon attacks and swift kicks respectively.

There's also a 'special move' button which, once charged up, lets you initiate a large combo followed by an impressive, potentially magic-based attack. It also looks really cool.

You can enhance your attacks in between fights, where you can purchase new weapons and attribute skill points to learning new special attacks (or enhancing existing ones).

Who's the boss?

Fights take place in a first-to-three-rounds format, and in tougher fights there's a gripping to-and-fro dynamic that really makes the character opposite feel like your mortal nemesis.

Adding to this feeling is the fact that each foe gets tougher the closer to defeat it becomes, throwing in a new attack or altering form completely to keep you on your toes.

The imagination of these attack patterns - and of the enemy design in general - is a huge part of Rage of the Gladiator's appeal. You'll face unusual tentacled monsters from another dimension, tricky snake-charmers, ninja assassins, and even the amusing little old man who trains you in the tutorial section.

While each character can present a serious challenge - especially on the higher difficulty levels - they're mostly played for laughs, with amusing quips and animations littered throughout each fight.

What we do in life echoes in subsequent play-throughs

This jovial tone sits somewhat at odds with the dull, static story scenes that bookend the game's various run-throughs (once you finish you have to play through again on a tougher difficulty, with new boss characters opened up). We far prefer the humorous take handled so expertly by the game engine.

While we're on the subject of niggles, the controls are shown up to be slightly imperfect in fights that require a quick and unexpected change of approach.

This is especially so when playing on iPad, where switching from dodging to blocking, jumping, or initiating a special attack can be a bit hit and miss in the heat of the moment. Larger, more compact and less ornately drawn virtual controls would have been advantageous.

Still, there's no denying that in an App Store swiftly filling up with Infinity Blade clones it's taken a game from outside of its sphere of influence to come along and fight it toe-to-toe. What's impressive is that Rage of Gladiator manages to hold its own in the contest, all while wearing a smile on its face.

Rage of the Gladiator

A slick first-person hack-and-slasher that really benefits from some colourful and imaginative enemy design