iPhone Life magazine

Review: Ronin by Bulwark Studios

Infinite runners are to action games like Match 3 games are to the puzzle genre: there are a lot of options on the App Store, and so many of them start to feel the same after a while.  Thankfully I like the infinite runner style of game play enough that I’m pretty much willing to try any one I can get my hands on, and occasionally I’m still surprised to find one that doesn’t feel just like the rest.  Now I’m not suggesting that Ronin does anything revolutionary for the genre, or quite frankly even really evolutionary, but there’s something about it that keeps drawing me back.

Samurai vs Samurai
 

You take control of a samurai that has been deposed by his master, though it’s not clear whether the objective is to prove your worth and regain your title or to seek revenge on a corrupt boss.  Either way you’ll have to journey through 100 waves of peasants, archers, samurai and ogres in order to complete your final task.  It won’t be easy, because even the lowly peasant is willing to fight back.  There are 5 different “generic” enemies in all, each with their own fighting style.  Some will require you to duck before attacking, while others can only be felled by a blow to the head.

As you take down enemies you’ll earn experience, and every time you level up you get a skill point.  These points can be used to unlock or upgrade both active and passive skills.  All of you passive skills can be active at once, though you only get one active skill at a time.  The active skills are fueled by wisps that you pick up along the path, and when you get enough to use the skill you double tap the skill’s icon to execute it.  The higher the cost of the skill the less likely you’ll ever get to execute it – in all my playing so far I’ve never gotten to cast the healing skill, which is the most expensive one in the bunch.

When Ogres Attack
 

Like you’d expect the main character runs automatically.  Jumping and sliding are a matter of swiping up and down respectively, and attacking requires a forward swipe.  It’s actually pretty simple and quite responsive, but it does take a bit of getting used to in regards to timing.  The double tap for the active skill sometimes seems not to trigger, but that could just be me not tapping fast enough.  In addition to just beating the 100 waves of enemies, which I have a feeling is itself a monumental task, there are Game Center achievements to earn and leaderboards to compete on.  You can have up to three profiles in case you don’t want others to mess up your game, and iCloud syncing means you can continue your adventure on any device that you have the game installed on.

The graphics are fantastic.  It’s almost like watching a moving painting, and from time to time something will try and catch your eye in the background and tear you away from the action.  Just make sure your glances are quick, because the enemy won’t wait for you.  The sound effects are okay, but don’t really rise up to the quality of the rest of the audio / visual elements.  The music, on the other hand, is quite nice.  There are five different tracks, and you can actually tell when the game transitions between them because they are all distinct.  That’s surprisingly not as common as you’d think.

My Skill Tree
 

If you’re looking for something to redefine the genre you’ll probably be disappointed with Ronin.  However, if you want a challenging infinite runner that looks great and has excellent music, Ronin is a wonderful choice.  Just be prepared to invest some time in building up your samurai enough to defeat all 100 waves of bad guys.

Overall Score: 9/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 6.0.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.