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Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers

For: iPhone

Bromance of the Three Kingdoms

Product: Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers | Publisher: Gamevil | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, RPG | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US | App version: 1.0
Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers iPhone, thumbnail 1
During the 1950s, the shrill declaration that the reds were coming would have been enough to make any American's hair stand on end. In the decade 250, however, the Chinese trembled at the thought of yellow turbans marching.

Different time, different people, same fear mongering.

Annihilating the yellow turban revolutionaries is your task in Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers, though colour matters little in this historical hack 'n' slash adventure. Fetching black and white watercolour visuals reflect the abject simplicity of this plain action game.

Black, white, and red all over

Vanquish is hack 'n' slash action at its purest. No complicated combos, minimal upgrades, and a stark interface consisting of just a virtual analogue stick and 'attack' button situated at opposite sides of the screen. Move and attack - those are your only options.

It makes for instantly accessible gameplay, yet such shallow action doesn't have what it takes to hold onto your interest for long. Adding numbers to your kill count and taking in the painterly graphics are your only motives for returning. Frankly, that's not enough of a reason to keep you hooked through three campaigns and 18 missions.

Yet, there are other issues that cause the colour to bleed from the screen. The manner in which the action has been structured creates confusion in spite of its superficial combat. Awkward camera angles and a failure to vary mission objectives leave Vanquish with little in the way of depth.

Sibling rivalry

Sliding your left thumb over the virtual analogue stick directs your warrior across the pseudo-3D battlefields, but unusual shifts in the camera ruin what ought to be easy movement.

The foreground shifts as you move the stick: disorienting changes in the perspective are meant to given the 2D stages the appearance of 3D, yet it does more to complicate the action. Affixing the view to standard 2D and the analogue stick to absolute movement would avoid this problem. Such a change would dramatically improve the game.

A complete lack of imagination in battle scenarios ensure each mission is identical to the last: hack through enemies as the scene scrolls along and take out the boss to finish the level.

The introduction of archers equipped with fiery arrows and beefy cavalry provide a hint of freshness, until you realise they're as easily mowed down as your weaker foes.

Leaves you hungry for more

Opening up the game to new attack powers, special abilities, combo attacks, and other advance moves would at least provide some dimension. Even in this Vanquish offers scant sustenance. Holding down the 'attack' button allows for charged blows, but it's hardly sophisticated.

There's also a rush attack possible by tapping a special button that occasionally appears on the right side of the screen. It's not very effective, sadly.

What few upgrades can be earned are too plain to be exciting. Accumulating blue souls from fallen foes increases the power of your sword, whereas bonus items can be crafted from purple souls.

This process is totally random, though, and the items earned from using purple souls is left entirely up to chance. It's cruel irony that the game's greatest source of variety is an entirely random item crafting system unaffected by your input.

Hack 'n' slash action has the potential to thrill, but not without the embellishments of variety and depth. Vanquish forgoes both and fails to satisfy as a result.
Vanquish: The Oath of Brothers
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 5 February 2010
Alluring black and white graphics meet colourless action in this underwhelming historical hack 'n' slash adventure
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