Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
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BackStab centers around the story of Henry Blake, once an officer in the Royal Navy, betrayed and out for revenge. On his quest for vengeance, Blake will employ many skills to dispatch and escape his enemies. He will arm himself with various swords, firearms, and grenades to exact his bloody revenge, and to terminate his victims he will use a combination of stealth and parkour-like traversal to find them unawares and vulnerable.
There is no denying the resemblance between BackStab and the popular console franchise, Assassin's Creed. In fact, BackStab is what Assassin's Creed would have been if had been set in an 18th century English colony, the developers had a thing for pirates, and it had been released on the N64. This isn't a strike against the game, though. BackStab is successful at bringing to iOS many of the combat and traversal mechanics that made the Assassin's Creed games so popular.
Running, climbing, and jumping from building to building works very well and the game's character's contextual reactions to the environments are generally spot on. The environments can be a bit sparse at times which means that getting from one point to another is often accomplished quicker and much more easily by staying on the ground. Almost every mission requires some type of climbing and jumping though and the mechanics work well enough to make these sections enjoyable instead of frustrating.
The game touts a combo-based combat system, but the combo executions aren't very apparent and it ends up more like button mashing than anything else. That's not to say that the combat isn't satisfying in it's own way. Again, much like its console cousin Assassin's Creed, the combat animations are fun and each fight finishes with a flourished kill move. There are also flashy assassinations that Blake can execute if he sneaks up on an enemy undetected.
This is an open world game and there are several different environment types to explore. The environments are well designed and surprisingly immersive for an iOS title. The developer has done a great job at making some large environments that are filled with action and good-looking backdrops for that action.
Gameloft has always done a reasonably good job at taking the deep, immersive gaming experiences that were once exclusive to console or PC games and shrinking them down to fit on handheld devices. The inevitable problem with bringing those experiences to iOS devices, though, is how to map the complex controls essential in these type of games to the touch screen. BackStab is no different. It isn't rare to have some problems guiding Blake around the environments, and the contextual climbing mechanics don't help matters. He may latch onto a wall and hang there for a few minutes while the player struggles with the controls to get him down. Add the finicky camera controls to this and things can get a bit confusing. Luckily, in the case of BackStab, the games difficulty is forgiving enough that some hang-ups here and there won't end in too many deaths or setbacks.
BackStab stacks up to be a competent re-imagining of a popular console gaming experience on iOS devices. The lack of fidelity in the controls can be a bit frustrating, but these issues usually resolve themselves quickly enough to get on with enjoying the game. The story is fairly entertaining, but the real joy of this game comes from a depth not often seen in iOS games.