There are gamers who continue to look back on the late '90s as the peak years of video game storytelling.
Epic sci-fi fantasy yarns like Final Fantasy VII and VIII prized ambitious (in scale, at least) storylines as much as actual gameplay. They could be deeply involving to those raised on simple 2D platformers and shooters.
Spiral Episode 1 harks back to this period, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses.Tempus forget
That's not to say that Spiral is an ill-fitting console JRPG. In fact, it's a touch-driven adventure game that actually appears to have been designed with mobile platforms in mind.
You guide your amnesiac hero (of course) Tempus, with his mysterious techno-organic powers (naturally), around an attractively dystopian future world. Tapping on a location causes him to walk there and double-tapping initiates a run, while tapping and dragging gives you manual control.
This is fine in open spaces, but for anything else the controls feel a little fiddly and unreliable, and positioning the camera is an exercise in frustration.Tap fight
Fortunately, this isn't an action game as such, although the battle system isn't your typical turn-based affair either.
You can engage groups of enemies by tapping on them from a distance to shoot, or when close up to whip out your laser lance. Pressing and holding allows you to build up a power shot, which can hit multiple foes simultaneously.
Blocking, rather oddly, is a matter of simply doing nothing, while you can dodge by double-tapping on a clear area of the screen.
It's a surprisingly engaging system, though when the screen gets a little busy it can become a little haphazard. There's a very simple level-up system as a reward, which is automated by default but which can be handled manually.Same old jobs
Other interactive sections involve rudimentary vertical traversal (through an incredibly basic zipline system), moving from A to B to meet C on terra firma, and a small sprinkling of clunky stealth - all of which ram home that early PlayStation feel.
The presentation is quite strong, with detailed and well-animated 3D models, though the futuristic world feels a little cold, sparse, and over-familiar.
As you might expect, the main emphasis here is on storytelling, which is ably - though often stiffly - voiced by an adequate cast. The slightly wooden script doesn't do them any favours, but credit is due for the developer's console-level efforts.
Overall, Spiral Episode 1 is a proficient start to a new story-based adventure series. Its strengths are in its solid presentation and oddly nostalgic late-'90s-RPG storyline, so if you're after just such a blast from the past you could do a lot worse.
Just don't come expecting anything with real depth, originality, or spark.