Not nearly as fun as a game with “Colossus” in the title should be
I’m a pretty big gamer, and I consider Sony’s Shadow of the Colossus to be one of the great masterpieces when it comes to action/adventure titles. When I heard that Wharr: The Colossus Age, a new platformer for the iPhone, had a lot in common with the aforementioned title, I was pretty excited to play it. But within a few minutes of playing Wharr I realized that this connection was a pretty monumental lie. Yes, players control a character who has to kill giants with a sword, but the fun and quality present in Shadow of the Colossus are glaringly absent from this game.
The poorly-written story goes as follows: the world’s elemental forces are controlled by a group of colossi. All is well for a while, but the head colossus goes nuts and convinces the other members of its race that the world needs to be destroyed. As a result, these beings take a note from the Book of Genesis and deliver a significant amount of supernatural wrath unto the world. Finally, “a young ogress, called Wharr, of the order of the Valkyries” decides that enough is enough and sets out to take every colossus out.
This is technically an action-platformer, but even this label doesn’t really feel all that accurate. Players control a green-skinned valkyrie who automatically jumps from platform to platform, but her direction is controlled via the phone’s tilt-sensing capabilities. Unfortunately, the physics are a bit too floaty: there’s no way to accurately control and/or direct a character’s path, so hitting a platform across the screen is a bit of a crapshoot.
After each successful jump, the character swings her sword a couple of times and the colossus’ health is knocked down a bit. As Wharr jumps, her “rage limit” meter slowly fills and she eventually unleashes a special attack that does a hefty amount of damage. Occasionally, hearts (extra lives) and floating swords (immediate rage attacks) pop up in levels, but the only way to actually collect/trigger them is if the character hits them during a platform bounce. Jumping through them doesn’t do anything, which was a rude discovery the first time I tried to collect one that was simply floating in empty space.
The colossus, meanwhile, doesn’t really do much. Occasionally, a large hand will move over the screen, blocking out the entire image for a few seconds. While the hand doesn’t do any direct damage, it’s not uncommon to miss a platform entirely because there’s no way to keep track of the on-screen character. This is frustrating simply because it feels like a cheap ploy rather than a genuinely challenging mechanic to overcome.
Between levels, players can spend gold they’ve earned on a skill tree that will level up the character’s abilities. This isn’t a bad idea, since it gives the game a little bit of an RPG feel, but there’s not much of a noticeable difference in gameplay even after attributes have been increased.
There’s not even a whole lot of appeal when it comes to Wharr‘s production values. One of the first things players will notice is that there’s some awkward phrasing in the story description, as well as one page where the valkyrie’s gender was switched from “she” to “he”. When the gameplay actually starts, the audio is incredibly repetitive, and there’s no option to play one’s own music.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the art style’s been seen before. After a few minutes, I figured it out: the game’s graphics feel like they’re straight out of the cartoon Samurai Jack; the main character in the game actually bears an uncanny resemblance to the female lead from the episode “Jack and the Warrior Woman.” On top of that, the sword that the valkyrie sports looks like it’s a silhouette of the one sported by Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII.
That said, the in-game character looks pretty decent when it’s moving around (though laggy animation does occur), though it doesn’t take long to see all of her moves, since all she does is jump and swing her sword repeatedly.Platforms aren’t exactly ugly, but they’re pretty unremarkable. A static illustration of a colossus fills the level background and doesn’t move, and each of these images seems kind of fuzzy and pixilated. The same can be said for the colossus hands that occasionally swipes across the screen
Is Wharr: The Colossus Age bad? No, but it’s far from good, and it’s frustrating when it should be fun.. If gamers skip this, they won’t be missing anything.