A plague of flesh-eating zombies is laying siege to towns and villages left, right and centre; the land is in danger of being consumed, quite literally, by forces of darkness, and the people need a saviour. So who you gonna call? If you don’t have the local monastery on speed dial in case of such an emergency I can’t really blame you. Lets face it, priests and nuns just aren’t your typical action heroes. But then again Bulkypix’s Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard (to give the game its full and somewhat inexplicable title) isn’t your typical horror-slash-actioner. Not by a long shot.
Brandishing manga-like visuals sharp enough to take out your eye, a storyline that circumvents the usual undead uprising nonsense with a risqué – by AppStore standards – sub-plot involving two same-sex, star-crossed lovers (that’d be religious sisters Angelika and Magdalena), and some of the most blissfully violent monster hunting ever seen on the iPlatform, Twin Blades plays by its own rules.
The game kicks off at a belting pace and never lets up. Sent by his holiness, Father Richiardo to investigate why it is the dead won’t stay in their graves, Angelika soon finds herself squaring off against all manner of foul creatures. As luck would have it, rather than prayer books and rosary beads, she’s packing the lethal combination of an oversized scythe and pistol. And that’s just for starters.
Bucket after bucket of blood is spilled as our scantily clad heroine hacks, slashes and blasts her way through legions of undead enemies; heads get loped off, zombies are sliced limb from limb, and the action frequently disappears behind a cloud of viscera. If you hadn’t guessed as much, in spite of the Studio Ghibli-esque visuals, this ain’t one for the little’uns.
Causing carnage is remarkably easy – with on-screen buttons taking care of swinging that huge scythe and shooting the nun’s gun respectively, while movement and jumps are pulled off using the d-pad. This non-complex control and combat system means Twin Blades falls neatly into the pick-up-and-play category, but could leave anyone who’s played a few of these side-scrolling affairs before wanting for more. Surely a game like this is crying out for some sort of combo system or crazy power-ups?
That said, the dual weapon mechanic does work well. Angelika’s guns run on energy (the power of Christ perhaps) which gets depleted the more she uses them, so must constantly be re-charged enroute by dispatching foes with her trusty blade. Should you get tired of the default pistol you can always nip back to the monastery between levels to trade harvested zombie hearts for upgrades and bigger and better guns.
Richiardo’s arsenal is fully stocked with a diverse range of killing machines, we’ve got all the usual suspects: machine guns and flame-throwers, but also a freeze gun and (my personal favourite) a vapouriser. This bad boy when triggered emits a holy sound effect whilst firing a laser beam that strips zombie’s flesh from their bones before reducing them to a pile of smouldering ashes. Nice.
It’s also possible to upgrade your character at the shop by buying new skills such as the almighty “air slash”, and expanding your health and energy gauges. However, rather disappointingly, your scythe cannot be upgraded or swapped for more powerful melee weapons (which reminds me, where are those titular twin blades?). All in all though, the unlockables on offer do add considerable depth to the title, and give an extra incentive to keep playing.
Much has been made of the game’s anime inspired art style, and not without reason. I really can’t stress this enough, Twin Blades truly is a sight for sore eyes – from the lush hand-drawn environments to the super-slick and ultra-graphic animations as Angelika torches howling ghouls or leaps in the air before burying her blade in the face of a seven foot tall zombiefied butcher – representing some of the most stunning visuals from an iPhone game yet.
However despite a handful of epic boss battles doing their best to distract from the repetitiveness of the core gameplay, the button mashing and mindless violence does get a bit wearisome once you’ve spent a few day and night cycles slaughtering the undead. Overall though, it’s hard not to get swept up by Twin Blades‘ anything goes attitude, high-octane action and outrageous levels of gore.
Whether or not it’ll hold your interest for long enough to complete both the story and lengthy survival modes will depend largely on how much the sight of a tooled-up, lesbian nun blasting zombies’ brains out through the backs of their skulls titilates you. But if you’re anything like me, you’re anticipating the sequel already…
iFanzine Verdict: You’ll be hard pushed to find a more visually stunning and censor-baitingly violent actioner on the Appstore. True Twin Blades lacks sophistication in some areas, but the over-the-top action and wonderfully whacked-out plot mean it’s one hell of a fun game all the same. And Amen to that!