With every week that passes, a new iOS game is released that's even more visually impressive than the last.

Previously, Shadowgun held the crown for a scant seven days, bowling us over with console-quality graphics and gameplay. Now that accolade has been cruelly wrested - nay, snatched, along with a desultory poke in the eye - by atmospheric chiller The Dark Meadow. It blends together elements of first-person combat, role-playing and exploration, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

As an aside, we feel obliged to state the obvious; developers have clearly embraced the touchscreen device (both iOS and Android) as a viable new gaming platform, and they're churning out some truly amazing products. It's a veritable golden age, folks.

How does it play?

You wake up on a filthy bed in an abandoned hospital, and you have no idea how you got there. As you stagger through the sprawling corridors, you realise you're not alone; around every corner you turn, there's a grotesque creature who wants to skin your hide and use it for a necktie...

Fortunately, you're armed with a crossbow and a sword, one for ranged attacks and the other for melee combat. When you're not fighting for your life, you're investigating the empty rooms for clues about the complex and, more importantly, how you can make your escape.

There's also an overarching mystery, with the recurring appearance of a white ghost at critical points in the game. Is she friend or is she foe? There's a creepy-sounding inmate who guides you through the world via intercom. He'd have you believe the latter, that she's a malevolent witch who means you harm, but who can you trust in this mad-house?

Why do we like it?

This is one classy production. Using the Unreal Engine 3, Developers Phosphor Games have worked hard to construct a dark, torrid fairy-tale that's dripping with atmosphere and suspense. Rest assured, it's not a game for the faint of heart (or the young of age).

The underlying game mechanics might owe something to Infinity Blade, but hey, if we're going to play "spot the influence", we could also make the case that the likes of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Pan's Labyrinth have all played equal parts in its genesis.

All that said, The Dark Meadow is a splendid achievement. The bar has been raised, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and the hyperbole has been exhausted. We can't wait to see the next game that tries to go one better.


The Dark Meadow costs £3.99 on the iTunes App Store and is available for iPhone and iPad. [iTunes]