App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Swordshot is an attention-grabbing game. Its pixel-art look is crisp and well considered, and you can understand exactly how the game works by taking one look at a screenshot or gif of it. This is where the cool part of Swordshot starts and stops, though. Although there is some nuance underpinning its sleek exterior, Swordshot mostly feels like a one-dimensional arcade game (with technical problems to boot).
The idea behind Swordshot is pretty straightforward, though perhaps a bit abstract. You play as a floating sword on a quest to collect the shards of a pearl that has been shattered. You collect these shards by battling all sorts of floating enemies, all of whom have obstacles that twist and rotate around them.
True to its name, you don't use your sword to stab enemies. Rather, you shoot projectiles out of it at your foes. To do this you simply tap, but you want to be careful in your timing. You only have a limited amount of shots to hit enemies with, so you want to avoid getting your shots blocked by obstacles.
Read and react
Although Swordshot's gameplay is very simple, mastering it is brutally difficult. The timing windows between objects on even the easiest enemies are pretty tight, and you have to fight through two waves of seven increasingly difficult foes just to make it to a boss, who--predictably--has their own gimmick that makes fighting them even harder than regular enemies.
Thoughout a run of Swordshot, there are a few support structures that can keep you in the fight. Most are pretty standard systems, like checkpointing and multiple lives that allow you to retry waves or enemy encounters without losing all progress, but then there's also Swordshot's shard system, which takes a little more explanation. Basically, shards are a currency you collect by hitting enemies or entering bonus rooms, and that currency can be spent in the midst of fights on powerups that can assist you. These powerups can be anything from direct damage to enemies or the ability to slow down time to make shooting considerably easier.
Tapping into the problem
I certainly think Swordshot has great style and some creative ideas to underpin the base gameplay, but those things can only carry its basic idea so far. For better or for worse, Swordshot's core only demands one thing from you--your reflexes. Clearing worlds and unlocking new abilities builds in some sense of progression, but the degree to which these things mix up the gameplay is slight at best.
Core issues aside, Swordshot also suffers from a pretty maddening technical problem. There are dead spots on the screen that make it so some of your taps do nothing. For a game that already tests your patience, spending your energy to dial-in your timing only for it to all be for naught makes me just want to put the game down and never touch it again.
The bottom line
In its current state, Swordshot is at its most impressive from a distance. When you dig into the game, there isn't much there, and a glaring technical problem makes your basic tool of interaction frustratingly inconsistent. Assuming this issue gets fixed, I still wouldn't be in love with Swordshot, but at least I could see how someone could enjoy it.