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Dark Guardians

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Run, rend, rock

Product: Dark Guardians | Developer: Studio Baikin | Publisher: Studio Baikin | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.0
Dark Guardians iPhone, thumbnail 1
Digital marketplaces like the App Store and Google Play have their share of endless-running games. Oh boy, do they ever. And most of these titles share certain characteristics that practically define the genre.

One: the games usually have something cute and colourful toddling across the screen, like a pudgy ninja or a candy-munching monster. Two: the games are almost invariably free-to-play, meaning upgrades and expendable power-ups are hard to acquire unless you buy them with cash.

Dark Guardians, by Studio Baikin, slices cleanly through those two genre stereotypes. The hero of Dark Guardians is a tireless warrior that hefts a sword large enough to make Cloud Strife feel insecure about his Buster Sword.

The game is also pay-to-play, and lacks an in-game marketplace. All your upgrades must be earned through persistence and dexterity.

Look at my horse. My horse is amazing.

How do these deviations from the norm affect Dark Guardians as a game? Let's just say, "Pass the sword and crank up that gothic dubstep."

Rhythm, no rhythm

If Dark Guardians has one curious flaw, it's that it describes itself as an endless-runner / rhythm game hybrid, but there's no rhythm involved in your attacks, barring the fact that you push different-coloured buttons to launch elemental-based attacks on enemies.

For instance, if a wolf on fire charges you (yes, it's as metal as it sounds), you must attack with your fire sword to kill it. Electric enemies must be dispatched with an electric blade. Poisonous enemies are wiped out with a poison sword, and regular baddies are chopped down to size with a normal sword.

The fast-paced action (not to mention trying to keep your brain and fingers untangled) makes for good fun for fans of endless-runners, but if there's actually a rhythm to follow, it's very scattered and random.

Dark. Brooding. Did we mention dark?

Another problem with Dark Guardians lies with its visuals. The animation is gorgeous, and the packs of bounding wolves and wild boar are impressive to look at.

The dark colours add atmosphere to the game's background settings, including forests, castles, fields, and bridges - but things get a little too dark at times, occasionally making it difficult to see the action. It's especially problematic to pinpoint the poisoned enemies, since the miasma surrounding them is dark green.

Today's forecast: poisoned wolves, chance of rain

Despite these issues, Dark Guardians is a hard game to put down. You're driven to push yourself further and further, and work for the next upgrade. You earn gold as you cut down enemies, which can go back into extending the reach of your blade, increasing your hit points, or moving your start point further up.

Being able to move your start point forward is especially welcome. It saves you from having to redo the earlier, tedious levels, and most endless-runners force you to pay for the same privilege with hard currency.

Dark Guardians lacks the rhythm elements it advertises, and its graphics, though excellent, can use some lightening-up in places. Nevertheless, it's a must-play for endless-runner fans keen on giving their reflexes - and their eyes - a workout.
Dark Guardians
Reviewer photo
Nadia Oxford | 2 April 2014
Dark Guardians's challenging pace and lack of in-app purchases make it one of the more appealing endless-runners available
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