Developer: MADFINGER Games
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad, iPhone 3G

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

MADFINGER Games apparently felt like the original Samurai: Way of the Warrior didn’t contain enough faceless blokes being cut in half, so a sequel had to be made. That sequel is Samurai II: Vengeance, bringing a revamped control system along with the same ultra-violent gameplay that the original is known for. Samurai II’s story is presented through comic book panels between levels. While they are well-done, they largely just serve as window dressing to get from point A to point B, cutting up everyone and everything in your path. As you kill enemies and break barrels, you earn points that can be spent on health upgrades, or to buy new combos to cut enemies up. The two major changes are the inclusion of more environmental effects in the levels, such as simple puzzles to open paths through levels, and the controls now use on-screen d-pad and buttons to control movement, rolling to dodge attacks, and the two attack buttons, which can be used to string together combos.

The first thing you will notice about Samurai 2 is that it is absolutely gorgeous. Everything in-game is cel-shaded, and just looks especially fantastic, especially on high-res devices. This game needs to be seen in person to be believed. And the game is a universal app, so you can play it on all of your devices, although no save synchronization exists between versions of the game. It can’t be expounded enough how much better the virtual controls are compared the gestures of the original; it really feels like you are able to do what you need to do without just ineffectually flailing about like in the original game.

The problem with the on-screen buttons is that while you can customize their position on screen, the layout for the roll and two attack buttons cannot be customized, as they stay locked in place even if you move their position. And even then, the combos feel very random in their effectiveness. It feels like sometimes you might be able to cut an enemy in half with a combo, but at other times it feels like you’re just ineffectively flailing away at your opponents, with no real way to tell how effective your attacks are. The game quickly devolves into random hack and slashery, with rolling interspersed to avoid taking damage. That’s pretty much what you do for the whole game, trying to survive until you reach the next checkpoint, lather, rinse, repeat. It gets old very quickly.

Samurai II: Vengeance visuals may impress, but the gameplay is roundly unimpressive. While there are definitely improvements, the combat system needs to be entirely overhauled. MADFINGER Games have an improved product here, but still have a long way to go to having a great game.

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