Developer: Summer Time Studio
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

holy archer 1With games like Tomb Raider, Crysis, Assassin’s Creed, and Far Cry, bows and arrows are everywhere these days. The Legend of Holy Archer proves that the App Store is no exception from the “Year of the Bow.” However, it may be its logical extreme.

It’s clear from the start that The Legend of Holy Archer wants to provide the purest archery experience imaginable. Therefore, it doesn’t waste players’ time with the sort of adventuring and RPG-style exploration its fantasy aesthetic may suggest. Instead, it seems to take most of its inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus in that each stage is solely about taking down a gigantic creature. To do so, players use the bow and the bow alone. Using the touch screen, players aim their initial shoot and then guide their arrow through increasingly long and twisted pathways to reach the monster. Hitting certain sweet spots does more damage but bosses will use moves of their own to protect themselves. Players can also try to hit magical orbs to unleash special attacks and stat boosts as well as treasure chests for money to buy better bows.

The game is entirely about this archery mechanic so it’s a little strange then that the controls aren’t entirely up to snuff. They aren’t bad. In fact, after getting past the wonky learning curve, successfully guiding an arrow around sharp turns right into enemy skulls is the most satisfying part of the game, with triumphant, Final Fantasy-style music swelling at the moment of victory. However, the controls just aren’t quite as smooth as they should be. In another game this might have been tolerable but it sticks out here because of how central the mechanic is. It’s especially problematic later on as the level design gets more complex and challenging.

Fortunately, The Legend of Holy Archer is such a gorgeous game that players can only get so mad about a few missed shots. Running at its highest setting, the game features beautiful, detailed, 3D natural landscapes full of dense forests, boiling lava, and reflective ponds. Meanwhile, the monsters themselves are stunning from both a technical and artistic standpoint. There are long load times and the levels are relatively small but the trade-offs are worth it for these console-quality visuals.

Like archery itself, The Legend of Holy Archer demands patience and precision. Sometimes it’s frustrating but just remember: be the bow. The Year of the Bow continues.

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