App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I doubt many people look at an iOS device for the first time and think "Boy, a game about jousting tournaments would be perfect for this thing!" I know, it seems an unlikely combination. It's hard to imagine a touch screen being the perfect controller for pushing an armor-clad noble off of a horse with a big stick, but that doesn't make it any less true. Lucky for us, someone came to this realization because now Shake Spears! is a thing that exists.
Shake Spears! follows the timeless tale of a man who wants to woo a girl, and a girl who wants the man wooing her to become a jousting legend. Kind of like that Heath Ledger movie but with period-appropriate music. So he (the player) sets out to do just that: fighting his way through a virtual army of mounted knights on his path to glory and lady kisses. No small task, seeing as there are twenty different tournaments to win, each with five opponents to thrash, making for a grand total of one hundred bouts that need winning. That's a lot of required victories even before factoring in losses, retries and retries in order to attain three stars for each level.
Aside from offering a lot of combat and looking pretty good, Shake Spears! also has the most comprehensive jousting controls I've ever seen on an iOS device. Okay, that's not saying much but the controls really are well done. Sliding a thumb along the left side of the screen adjusts shield placement, while the right controls the lance. Each pass becomes a surprisingly engaging game of splitting focus between offense and defense as the action slows down for a moment and blows are landed or deflected.
In addition to the basics, there are also lots of special abilities (i.e. magic) to utilize. These spells range from making a character immune to damage to obliterating their opponent's armor in one blow. However, enemy knights have access to these spells as well, so clever combinations of these abilities (or possibly dumb luck) are required for success. My personal favorite is the magnetic shield combined with the electrified shield, drawing my opponent's lance in and then smashing it to pieces. It makes them completely unable to attack for one round and there's no way for them to avoid it.
And that's Shake Spears! in a nutshell. It's incredibly well designed, addictive and finding new effective spell combinations never gets old. The end of the horse gallop animations is a little weird looking, but aside from that and the ever-present concern of running out of content it's a fantastic game. One that I sincerely hope Alawar continues to support and upgrade in the future (translation: more armors/knights/spells please!).