Upcoming iOS brawler God of Blades is a violent, visceral love letter to the pulp fantasy paperbacks of a bygone era. A game inspired by authors like Lin Carter and Michael Moorcock, and influenced by side-scrolling beat-'em-ups like Golden Axe.
Texan indie studio White Whale Games first pitched the game on Kickstarter in late 2011, and managed to secure the modest $4,000 needed to finish up the game and get it out before the end of summer 2012.
In God of Blades, you play as a ghost king who marches through the land fending off enemies. The combat centres on parries and timing, rather than random slashing. Each enemy has its own rhythm, so it's about learning when to attack and when to defend.
It's a bit like Infinity Blade, then, only one tussle instantly moves into the next, leaving you no time to catch your breath.
There are lots of neat touches. The momentary slowdown when two swords clash, the way other battles happen concurrently in the far-off background, and the gratifying ragdoll physics (a slain enemy can quickly turn into a deadly ballistic missile).
These battles occur in moody and evocative landscapes, where enormous planets hang close in the sky and the atmosphere burns in purple or deep crimson.
The backdrops look just like the covers of some fictional fantasy franchise, or perhaps a dusty prog-rock album sleeve. The synth-heavy soundtrack perfectly complements the action, too.
There's a full campaign in God of Blades, with a story and lots of interesting landscapes. There's also an endless-runner mode in which you get to see exactly how far your sword (and handy magic spells) can get you against an infinite army of attackers.
And then there's the Loreseeker - perhaps the most quaint idea you'll see in a mobile game this year. Certain weapons will only be unlocked if you literally stand inside a library. This Foursquare-powered feature probably won't save libraries from government cuts, but it's a quirky idea that chimes with the literary theme of the game.
God of Blades is satisfying - and, at times, ruthlessly challenging - to play. The White Whale Games team's admiration for long-lost fantasy novels comes through at every turn, from the faux book covers on the level select screen, to the epic text crawls that precede each chapter.
The game will hit the iPhone and iPad sometime this month. Check out the trailer below while you wait.