There’s something to be said for small games. While many developers are looking to throw lots of options and modes in a game to give it more, you occasionally stumble upon the team that kept things simple. Ring Blade, developed by MindTrip Studios, is simple. At a buck, it’s also cheap. All a simple, cheap game needs to do is be fun for a little while.
Fundamentally, Ring Blade is a standard vertical shooter, with players moving a paddle at the bottom and shooting out blades at enemies moving Galaga-style on the screen. The controls are what make it work: you slide back and forth across the bottom of the screen to avoid obstacles, and flick your fingers forward in a direction to shoot a blade that way. The blades bounce around the screen like an air hockey puck, taking out enemies in its path. You can rapid-fire the shots, or you can wait until you charge up a super-powerful shot that usually takes out enemies in one blow.
All of this is wrapped in an aesthetic that’s distinctive even in the visually-saturated iOS realm. All graphics, from weapons to enemies to interface elements, are made to look like tribal-looking tattoos. Of course, they’re also animated, so they pulse and change color. They look cool on the screen, but it’s the kind of thing you don’t want in your nightmares.
The waves of enemies are in formations that lend themselves to mass wipeouts. While you can certainly just keep shooting and hope for the best, getting the timing and angle correct to take out a large group of enemies all at once is gratifying, and it seems that was what MindTrip was going for. It’s the only real motivation to move left and right most of the time, as otherwise sitting in one spot and just fending off attacks by shooting blades is the dominant strategy.
MindTrip didn’t try to wrap this in a bunch of social networking shenanigans (though there is OpenFeint support for leaderboards) or freemium pricing schemes and extra content. There’s simply a sequence of 30 levels, with periodic bosses and a high score your only motivator. It’s no picnic, either. Ring Blade is clearly balanced for the core arcade gamer, and while most can enjoy the earlier rounds, getting to the end is a true achievement.
Ring Blade isn’t your next obsession; it’s a game, in the way games used to be. It’s simple, it’s cheap, and yes, it can be a lot of fun. For 99 cents, it’s a good one to pick up and play every once in a while.