In the crucial confrontation of the iPhone game Infinity Blade, a Skeletor-like creature descends from a golden throne, makes quick work of your character—slash, slash, slash—then scoffs that perhaps future descendants will put up more of a fight than you did. Watching this character die so ignominiously after 30 minutes of time and energy investment (an eternity for an iPhone game) is a genuine pain. But in Infinity Blade, true to its title, the end is really just the beginning.
Flash forward 20 years. Your son returns—conveniently keeping all of dad’s gear and experience points—to make another run at the Skeletor-type creature. And when this son dies (and he will), his son will return in another 20 years. And so it goes. Instead of playing a single, omnipotent hero, Infinity Blade cleverly lets gamers walk in the shoes of multiple generations of heroes, a conceit that cleverly breaks the action down into easy-to-digest segments.
Gameplay consists of a series of quick individual battles against creatures who seem to be made from a combination of steel and concrete, and who seem to be loitering around the hallways of a beautiful but clichéd medieval castle. Control couldn’t be simpler: Dodge incoming blows by tapping the lower left- or right-hand sides of the touchscreen. Block by touching the shield icon. Deliver sword blows via fingertip swipes.
Spamming attacks will only get you so far in the game. Unlike Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the Nintendo DS, which employed a similar touchscreen system, Infinity Blade requires careful observation and forethought. Waiting for an enemy to telegraph an incoming attack, avoiding it, then delivering several return blows is the only way to survive.
From hyper-detailed visuals to the superb soundtrack, the game’s production values set a new standard for iPhone games. But it’s the fight-shop-upgrade gameplay loop that, once established, makes the game so addictive and satisfying. Most importantly, unlike other iPhone games like Street Fighter IV, Infinity Blade never makes the mistake of overreaching by trying to emulate a console experience. It’s utterly endemic to the platform, a novel concept that should attract the attention and support of more iPhone developers.