Review: Twin Blades (Sony PS3/PSP)

Twin Blades
Publisher: Sanuk Games
Developer: Sanuk Games
Genre: Hack-n-Slash
Release Date: 02/22/2011

So here I am again with another new PSP Mini. That is, of course, if you haven’t played the game in either its iPhone or XBLA capacities. Basically, PSN is getting the short end of the stick in terms of timeliness of release, but at least the game is finally available.

So, Twin Blades is an old school hack-n-slash where you play a warrior nun out to save the world from a zombie infestation. You’d think that kind of description would be shocking or at least new, but the rise of smaller sized games has led to a lot of bizarre things like this. It’s getting kind of hard for a concept to be original at this point.

I turned this game on hopeful that I was in for a fun ride that wouldn’t eat up too much of my time. After all, that is the purpose of the Minis. Let’s take a look at what I actually got.

Story

You already know the bit about playing a warrior nun, but did you also know that she is a lesbian? Normally, I wouldn’t bring something like that up in a review, but it is a character trait that the developers seemed to want to highlight for one reason or another. Firstly, the character is a damned NUN, as it CATHOLIC. You can’t get much more unforgiving about homosexuality that Catholicism. On top of that, her damned priest knows that she’s gay, doesn’t seem to care, and her lesbian lover is in fact, another nun. Do these guys write pornography as well then? The only other character trait that we’re given is that Angelika, that’s her name, is a bit stubborn. That’s pretty much the entire story. Go kill zombies whilst rescuing your lesbian lover. There’s a villain that appears at the end of the game right before you kill him, but no real antagonist. It all comes off as some bad fan fiction and doesn’t do anything worth remembering.

Apart from the story, you have one other mode to contend with. It’s a basic survival mode where you trudge through waves of the undead until you reach the end of a stage. In between rounds, you can spend currency to upgrade you abilities and weapons. If you die once, that’s game over. It’s basically story mode without level select and/or a plot. Still, if you’ve gotten your fill of blatant lesbian exploitation, you can at least play this for some mindless fun.

It’s a simple package altogether, but the inclusion of the survival mode is a nice touch for a mini. You also have a very basic suite of options and a scoreboard you can look at. The quality of the story might not be there, but the overall menu is fairly good for this kind of thing.

Graphics

At times, the graphics can be one of the high spots for the game. Those times are mostly mitigated to the beginning, when everything is shiny and new.

Twin Blades uses a flash style of animation that put it ahead of the pack on the iPhone and puts it ahead of the pack as far as minis go. The sprites are crisp, clean, and and animate well. Blood splatters on the screen as you slice zombie heads off and zombies die differently depending on what weapon you use. A zombie killed by a flamethrower will collapse into bits of ash. I admit to being impressed by it at first.

The big problem here is repetition. For each situation, there is only one animation. That burning zombie was cool the first dozen or so times, but it got old eventually because you’ll see it dozens of times in a single level. The same holds true for the blood splatter. It hits the screen in the same way every time.

The whole thing is a limitation of the format, so I can’t be too harsh on the graphics because they rely on the same tricks over and over again. However, it is worth mentioning how fatigued you’ll be long before you even finish the game. You’ll be pleased with what you’re seeing for awhile. It just wont’ last.

Audio

The main theme for this game doesn’t really fit at all. It implies a more light-hearted adventure, rather than one that takes itself oh so seriously. Apart from it however the music is decent enough and fitting. There isn’t much of it beyond a few tunes, but for a game this size, that is understandable.

When it comes to sound effects, they’re nothing special. Weapons make appropriate sounds, but much like everything else in the game, get repetitive pretty early. The worst of the bunch is the sound effect for melee attacks. These are you bread and butter attacks, and the sound will likely get more than a bit annoying early on. I picked the game up before I wrote this section to give myself a quick reminder of the effects, and I quickly killed myself to avoid having to listen to the sound much longer.

Overall, I’d say the audio for this game meets the standards of a PSP Mini. That isn’t exactly something to be proud of, but I’ve heard much worse.

Gameplay

This game is all about the combat. You move Angelika with either the d-pad or the analog nub. Square strikes with you scythe, triangle uses your ranged weapon, circle is used to get out of the clutches of a zombie, x is for jump, the shoulder buttons cycle through your secondary weapons. It’s a pretty basic system that not only works well but is easy to master.

Zombies come in many forms, but they only have a couple of means of attacks. Some zombies are happy to stand there and swipe at you. These zombies are of no concern. The other attack type is grappling, and this is what you should be concerned with. If you get grabbed by a zombie, you lose life until you successfully bashed the circle button enough to get free. In that time, you’ll likely have been surrounded and need to resort to using a lot of ammo to get open. Zombies are slow, but they come at you from both sides and rise from the ground.

Using your scythe powers your ammo meter. You use this meter to shoot your various guns, such a pistol, machine gun, flamethrower, ice gun, and holy ray gun. In order to get these weapons and upgrades to you basic stats, you need to spend points at the shop. Each weapon/ability has five tiers, with each subsequent unlocked tier adding more power to the enhancement. You’ll pretty much want to visit the shop after every level, as zombies quickly become more numerous and harder to kill.

If there’s one problem with the basic gameplay, it is repetitiveness. There is no skill in button mashing your way to victory, but that’s all you have to do. You kill things, move forward, keep killing things, keep moving forward, and repeat this process until you’ve killed all the things and can’t move forward anymore. Then you spend your points on upgrades, go to the next level, and repeat the whole process. A lack of true variety among enemy types turns this into a real grind.

There are some boss fights to fiddle around with. The first boss quickly becomes a sort of mid boss character that you fight over and over again while the other two bosses are one shot deals. The latter two have a trick to beating them that you must figure out. It mostly revolves around choosing the correct weapon at the right time. Until you get the hang of it, you’ll probably die several times.

In all, the gameplay isn’t too bad on a basic level. It functions well enough due to its simplicity, even if the controls can feel a bit stiff when you want to turn around. The big killjoy here is a lack of variety and a ton of repetition. I’ll focus more on that in later sections of the review.

Replayability

A play through the game’s story mode will probably only take you a couple of hours. If you get yourself killed a few times, it can extend the game a bit due to long levels. After you’ve beaten the story, you can spend time getting the last few upgrades if you want, or just kill lots of things to build up a new high score. It’s not worth it.

The survival mode is likely where any replay will take place. You’re not likely to beat this without dying a few times, and getting through to the final stage will offer up some intrigue to those players who are in to that sort of thing. Depending on your skill level, you can probably tack on another hour or two of game time from this mode.

So, if you’re lucky, you can get three to four hours out of this game if you want to see or do everything. While not too bad for a Mini, it still doesn’t make a compelling argument for the game. More to the point, the constant repetitiveness makes it unlikely that you’ll ever want to play the game again. The best brawlers and hack-n-slash titles always offer multiple characters or more enemy variety in order to keep things mixed up. This game does neither.

Balance

The game is pretty easy for the most part. Enemies have no tactic other than to come at you at a slow pace, and boss patterns are extremely easy to pick up. Once you get the flamethrower or the ray gun, the game becomes even easier. You can shoot once to stun enemies and then hack them to bits. Since the hacking replenishes your ammo, you never have to worry about running out.

The biggest issue the game has is that the upgrades become irrelevant almost as fast as you get them. I upgraded my health so that I could survive more hits, but after one level, the upgrade was nullified. The same problem happens with weapons. The pistol and machine gun become completely useless quickly. Using these weapons not only does a minuscule amount of damage, but lacks any sort of crowd control. You can use a fully upgraded machine gun, but the zombies will keep moving and eat your face before you can drop more than a couple of them. The freeze gun is pathetic, only being used in boss fights where it is required. I was fully upgraded at the end, and it felt like my melee attack couldn’t drop the most basic enemy without help and I could only take a hit or two before dying. If the game wasn’t so easy, it would be impossible.

Originality

This game is a port of iPhone game which is also available on XBOX Live. I’m pretty sure to give it any points for originality would be almost criminal. Perhaps those versions would score some points for being one of the few games with an openly homosexual protagonist, but I can’t do that for this version.

We don’t give cheap points away here at DHGF.

Addictiveness

I had to force myself to beat this game.

Each level is a mindless march through hordes of unchanging undead. There is nothing more to levels than moving to the right. There are never traps, obstacles, or anything else you can interact with. The only drops are health potions, and the only enemies are standard zombies. Sure, some have different clothing on, but otherwise it is the same.

Also, the game relies heavily on backtracking. I started the game by beating the first two levels. Naturally, I assumed I would be headed to level three. Instead, I was told that the areas I had just cleared were now repopulated. I had to fight through them again before I could access level three. Then, I had to play through the next two levels before replaying all five in order to get to level six. I must have played through the first level about a dozen times by order of the game! Sure, they added more zombies each time, but the layout was the same. It was unbelievably boring. The whole game is a form of artificial lengthening and it just made me sick.

Appeal Factor

For starters, this game can be found in full on other systems for less money. It’s only a few bucks, but in these times, saving a few bucks is pretty important. I’m not sure why Mini’s end up costing more than their IOS counterparts. It probably has something to do with fees involving putting the game up on PSN, in which case the blame shouldn’t be on the developer. Still, it makes this version of the game that much harder to recommend.

The other thing hurting this game is that awful repetition I keep bringing up. It kills a game that was already pretty basic, meaning fans of the genre aren’t likely to get much out of this over something else. I suppose it might be worth it to some gamers who’ve played everything else, but I’m willing to bet that isn’t the case.

Miscellaneous

I have one last complaint that I’ll lodge here. Why the heck is the game called “Twin Blades”? The main character only uses one blade, and there are no other playable characters. The title doesn’t fit any of the bosses either. I suppose it might have something to do with the lesbian lover, but her actual screen time is so small that it might as well not even be there. I’m just confused. If someone knows the answer, I’d appreciate if you’d leave a comment below or send me an email.

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Above Average
Audio: Mediocre
Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Very Poor
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Very Bad
Appeal Factor: Very Poor
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Look. It’s not like Twin Blades is a bad game at all. The mechanics are simple enough, and I’m sure there are some people who will get a kick out of it. The problems arise when you start getting into the game’s ability to keep players interested for stretches of more than ten minutes. The game is shallow and repetitive. While that doesn’t make it bad, it does make it a game you’ll have no problem avoiding.

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