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Swordshot – sharp but repetitive one–button shooter

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Developer: Crescent Moon Games
Price: $2/£2
Size: 565 MB
Version: 1.02
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Swordshot has almost everything in place to be the quintessential modern indie hit. It’s got the retro visuals that could have been lifted from the screen of an ’80s home computer, a sprinkling of random roguelite elements, and an assortment of run-enhancing power-ups.

But unlike something like Downwell, Swordshot’s core gameplay loop simply isn’t tactile, nuanced, or downright fun enough to keep you coming back time and again. While it’s good for an initial burst, you’ll tire of its paper thin premise alarmingly quickly.

Levels are a real hodgepodge thematically

Kudos to the developer for clarity of concept, though. It’s immediately apparent within seconds of your first run, with no prompting whatsoever, that your goal is to zap a static target with your titular swordshot – essentially a lazer-spewing blade.

Tapping the screen will fire one of your limited shots, with each zeroing in on your target without the need to aim. The challenge comes from timing your shot to fly in between the assorted objects that orbit your target.

You only get limited shots and lives

At first this is easy stuff, but pretty soon these random satellites – planets, magnifying glasses, umbrellas, bananas – will start to speed up. They’ll expand and contract, tighten formation, and even reverse course from time to time.

In a further nod to Space Invaders, there’s the odd bonus target to hit if you feel so inclined. This will earn you extra gems to spend on bonus power-ups such as extra lives and shots.

The ability to purchase additional shots and lives takes the edge off the difficulty

For all this surface variety, though, the action in Swordshot gets very repetitive. You’re essentially doing the exact same thing ad infinitum, and it wears a little thin before too long.

The random selection of enemy types feels like just that, with little rhyme nor reason to the procession of targets you’ll face, other than a loose thematic link depending on the particular world you choose from the off. All you know is that the next one is going to be numbered one higher on the level map, and that it’s likely to be a little tougher than your previous fight, until you reach an even tougher boss.

Hitting the gap between the shield items is satisfying

And believe us when we say that this game gets brutally tough. You’ll need perfect timing in the game’s tougher encounters, which actually prove to be more rigid and less fun than the easier early challenges.

It doesn’t help to find the odd unresponsive moment where your sword fails to fire despite a very clear tap. It doesn’t cost anything – if you don’t shoot, you don’t miss – but it does lessen your sense of connection to the game.

Swordshot is a game that’s fun enough initially, and even in subsequent small doses. But it’s simply too simplistic and limited to become the permanent home screen fixture that it clearly aims to be.