App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Call me odd, but I don’t think that there are nearly enough Japanese ink brush themed video games out there. In fact, with one exceptional exception, that pretty much just leaves Sakura Slash. At least as far as I know. Of course, incorporating nifty visuals inspired by one of the world’s more fascinating cultures is only half of the equation. The other half involves the game actually being entertaining, and that’s certainly what GAMEVIL’s latest offering is. In small doses.
Sakura Slash is a slightly different take on the “Cutter” genre than what most iOS users have become accustomed to. The emphasis is still very much on swiping the screen in order to dispatch specific targets (in this case evil floating eyeball thingies), but there’s an increased need for quick reflexes. Most of the little nasties sit in one spot for a few seconds and simply wait to be destroyed. Other more mobile (and winged) enemies will try to escape to the sides of the screen. If they reach the edge, it takes away health. Once all the health is gone it’s Game Over, naturally. It’s very much an endurance trial with players earning special orbs used as currency with each playthrough that can be used to purchase temporary power-ups or permanent upgrades. However the limited ability to slow down time and trace a one-hit kill line of ink across the screen mixes things up a bit.
By removing the focus on gravity and avoiding certain objects in favor of total annihilation, Sakura Slash manages to feel like something both familiar yet totally different. It takes a quick finger to keep those bat-things in line. Fortunately there are a decent number of new brushes and other upgrades to keep players on more even footing, not to mention compulsively pull them along. And, of course, the watercolor-looking backdrops are quite pretty and fit the general theme quite well.
It might take a little while for Sakura Slash to really get its hooks in, though. Early progression is a tad on the slow side as it takes a while to earn enough orbs to start buying stuff. It’s also a little disappointing (but understandable) to see that enemy patterns aren’t actually random. They come fast enough that pretty much only a savant could memorize them all, but having been spoiled by all manner of procedurally-generated content it feels like something of a let down.
Even with the slow start Sakura Slash is still bound to please fans of cutting stuff as it moves through the air. It may not convert the fruit-faithful, but it’s just different enough that it might still turn their heads. Everyone else can simply enjoy a quality game about slashing floating eyeballs.