There's box-office, and then there's BOX-OFFICE. The original Infinity Blade is something of a benchmark for the graphical capabilities of the iOS platform, its signature bouts of duelling rendered with a blend of epic fantasy and lyrical beauty. One year and countless plaudits later, no-one is surprised to see the release of a sequel. Is Infinity Blade II going to be a bland retread, or will it improve on the original?
What's it all about?
The premise is the same, but subtly different. As before, players work their way through a castle stronghold, fighting a succession of enemies until they reach the Big Boss. The first time you meet him (and the second, and the third), he'll chop you down without breaking a sweat. But then you're reincarnated, with all your skill, experience and weaponry intact, and you set off to repeat the process until you're strong enough to finally beat him.
Where Infinity Blade II differs is twofold: firstly, it's branched out in scope so that there're multiple pathways through the castle stronghold, and now you're tasked with defeating not one, but several Big Bosses. Secondly, it's introduced new weapon classes, so players can switch out the sword and shield for either a two-handed heavy weapon or to dual-wield two lighter weapons, depending on your preferred style of play.
These weapons also feature gem-modifier slots. Find or buy magical gems and plug them into your weapon (or armour) for new abilities, which add a crucial advantage when health is running low or if your foe is susceptible to particular types of magic.
Having these customisation options are welcome, but thankfully it hasn't changed the control scheme. This remains a simple yet effective process of using timed sweeps and gestures to block, parry and dodge your opponent's blows, and then slashing at them or unleashing magic at the appropriate juncture. It's like a super scaled-up version of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! on the NES, except without the celebrity endorsement.
Why do we like it?
Once again, the visuals are gobsmackingly pretty. The use of light is particularly impressive in the way that it filters through a stain-glassed window, or the way the game generates a simulated lens-flare as the camera pans across the scenery. We're suckers for little artistic flourishes like that.
Elsewhere, developer Chair Entertainment has clearly thought long and hard about how to improve upon the original without detracting from what made it great. We think they've succeeded, with the addition of RPG elements that serve to deepen and enrich the experience substantially. It's an iterative upgrade, as opposed to a complete overhaul.
The opponents, meanwhile, remain as fearsome and intimidating as they've ever been. A monstrous ogre looms tall over your hero, raising a mace aloft to squash him flat. Our hero lifts his sword and shield and prepares for impact. This is the stuff of timeless legend, ripped from the pages of Tolkien and his ilk, and it plays like a charm.
Infinity Blade II is available now on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, £4.99