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Hero of Sparta II

For: iPhone

Demigod of war

Product: Hero of Sparta II | Developer: Gameloft | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US | App version: 1.0.2
Hero of Sparta II iPhone, thumbnail 1
It's fair to say that Hero of Sparta II arrives with a stack of expectations higher than Mount Olympus.

As a sequel, it has to be better than the first game. As an action game, it has to be visceral and finely tuned. Most unfairly, it has to match the exemplary design of its console counterparts.

While it falls short in each regard, the true concern isn't whether Hero of Sparta II manages to replicate the award-winning gameplay of a larger, more established series: instead, it's why it lacks the finesse we demand of action games.

There's fun to be had hacking and slashing mythical beasts, even if it's too rough around the edges to be a hallmark of the genre.

Clash of the titans

Rather than measuring Hero of Sparta II against the pinnacle of action games, the question to be raised is whether it delivers on basic quality. Just as it wouldn't be reasonable to compare a young new athlete with an Olympic gold medallist, it seems unfair to label Gameloft's title a failure because it doesn't eclipse the best in its class. While far from the best, it nonetheless offers amusing gameplay.

The tale of ancient Spartan hero Argos meets basic expectations with a dozen levels of hack 'n' slash fun filled with all manner of mythical creatures from minotaur to sea serpents. An inventive combat system has you tapping and flicking a D-pad to level stabs, horizontal swipes, and vertical slashes at enemies.

No other iPhone and iPod touch action game comes close to the variety offered by Hero of Sparta II, and for this one reason it's worth playing.

Flicking the 'attack' button to send enemies into the air, then slamming them back to the ground with a second flick of the button down is good fun. Combined with special magic attacks triggered by holding the 'attack' button down and contextual finishing moves tapped out via icons that flash on the screen, the combat mechanics have the variety necessary to keep you engaged.

Unedited odyssey

The game's troubles stem from an overall lack of polish. From the presentation and technical performance to the level design, Hero of Sparta II is rough around the edges.

Take the level design, for example. Unimaginative scenarios have you moving from one battle to the next, each one triggering a magical force field that only dissipates when you've slaughtered every beast within.

Knowing when to trigger quick-time events during boss battles is tough because the only prompt comes at the bottom-right of the screen, which is usually covered by your thumb poised over the 'attack' button.

Noticeably unpolished platform challenges frequently result in cheap deaths. It's not uncommon to climb up a wall and have to wiggle around to find the right spot to detach from the wall. Seemingly simple jumps become tests of your ability to manipulate Argos midair.

Out with the new, in with the antiquated

Exacerbating these issues is surprisingly inferior performance on iPhone 4. When played on an iPhone 3GS, Hero of Sparta II is smoother, stabler. Interestingly, the trade-off in terms of graphical detail is slight. Although iPhone 4 offers crisper visuals, the overall level of detail is comparable on iPhone 3GS. Unfortunately, the voice acting is bad no matter what device you use.

It's recommended that you stick to an older device so as to extract what enjoyable gameplay there is to be had from Hero of Sparta II. To be clear, there's plenty - non-stop action, big boss battles, loads of collectibles, different weapons, and customisable upgrades.

What's missing is the polish to make all of these elements come together in a way that truly impresses. It's by this standard - not judging it against an innately superior console series - that Hero of Sparta II has difficulty meeting. For a mindless hack 'n' slash, though, it fits the bill.
Hero of Sparta II
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 30 July 2010
Hero of Sparta II is missing the polish to transform its clever combat mechanics and non-stop action from zero to hero
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