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Spellsword Review: Old School Grind is Quick and Dirty Fun

When I started playing Spellsword, the new fast-paced hack-n-slash puzzler from FireFruitForge and Everplay Interactive, my first impression was “Hey, it’s a mash-up of Swordigo and Leage of Evil.” And over the course of writing this review, I haven’t been able to shake that impression. Not that calling a game “A mash-up of Swordigo and League of Evil” is a bad thing. They’re both great games, and so is Spellsword. It’s a quick and dirty little game that’s worth having in your pocket.

In Spellsword, you play a young adventurer fighting his way through various missions. There’s some attempt at story here, but it’s all mostly incidental. Actual gameplay takes place in one of (currently) three environments, and each environment is small and static, with waves of enemies coming at you until you achieve the mission goal (collect a certain number of items, defeat a certain number of enemies, etc.). Actual play time for each mission is about a minute. It’s fast and hectic and something of a button-masher. It’s fun in the moment, though it’s also easy to lose track of the action in the chaos.

There’s a fun and heavy RPG element to Spellsword. As you play, you earn coins (“rupees” in the Zelda vein), better equipment, and stronger weapons to help you advance in the game. There’s no strict leveling system, but clearly the more you play, the stronger you will be able to make your character. There are also in-game power-ups, modeled as cards, that are absolutely vital to completing missions. In fact, there are times where the game really feels like “chase the next card” is your primary objective. [Actually, a few times, it literally is.]

As fun as the missions can be, I actually found myself enjoying the Endless Mode more. In Endless Mode, there’s no goal; just wave after wave of enemies. This endurance run not only leads to a longer game, allowing you to practice your play and find your rhythm, but it’s the perfect grinding tool for earning treasure.

In terms of style, Spellsword is really retro, and that’s part of what makes it fun. It’s got a 16-bit style that feels like an old side-scroller and a chipset soundtrack that, while repetetive, will certainly get stuck in your head. While younger players may not fully appreciate the style, I do as a child of the old console era.

All that said, there are a few things about Spellsword that I’d like to see addressed in future updates. The biggest one to me is a lack of iCloud syncing. Like many people, I have both an iPhone and an iPad, and a Universal game like Spellsword is something I’m going to play on both. It should be a standard move nowadays for devs to build iCloud game syncing into any Universal app. It just makes sense.

Also, I really hope that, like other puzzle-style games, future updates bring new settings. It’s not like in a game such as Angry Birds, where the setting retains a theme but the specifics change each time. The levels don’t change for the entire zone. There are times when the completely unchanging levels of Spellsword get repetive; and that, coupled with the limited number of enemies in any given zone, can really lead to a sense of sameness sometimes.

Warts aside, there’s a whole lot of goodness packed into this little 99-cent gem. It’s an easy recommendation for fans of fast and fun iOS games.

Our Score: 4 out of 5.

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