Don’t judge a game by its screenshots

Sometimes all you need is to hear a game’s name and see a few awesome screenshots to know that it’s going to be cool. Yes, it’s the digital equivalent of judging a book by its cover, but it does work on occasion. Other times, you end up with something like Archangel, a dungeon crawler that boasts attractive graphics but misses the mark with so many other things that it ends up a depressingly dull experience.

Let’s get the positives established up front. Black Tower Studios and Unity Games definitely came up with a decent enough concept, placing you in control of a vengeful archangel who looks like he means business. He’s got the big wings, a menacing weapon, and a shield: all the things you’d need to rough up anyone defying the will of Heaven (though technically the Powers are the warrior angels; just saying).

But as soon as you’re done admiring how awesome everything looks during the opening cinematics, the doubts start creeping in pretty quickly. The animation doesn’t do justice to the character designs, as everything moves very stiffly. It’s almost like the forces of Heaven and Hell don’t have as many joints as us mere mortals. The beautifully rendered scenery also gets in the way, making it hard to see more than an inch or so in front of you.

That wouldn’t be so bad if it was used to create some tension or something, but the bad guys simply stand there and wait for you to approach. You do that by tapping to get the archangel to move from one point to another, meaning you’ll be tapping a lot to get him from one end of the dungeon to another. A virtual button is used for attacks, which can increase along with movement speed after defeating strings of enemies without taking too much damage in return.

Archangel

Alas, it turns out some of the things that come with being an archangel aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. That sword (or axe, or whatever) is apparently for show, since all you have for the first levels of the game is a ranged attack. That was a first in all my years of playing RPGs and dungeon crawlers – a purely decorative melee weapon.

Some levels have moving platforms that unveil another weakness in the archangel’s arsenal. As you’re riding around on the platform, enemies jump down and attack you, making for a nice change of pace to the regular gameplay. You have to be careful how you dispatch them though, because you can fall off the edge and die. This might be a good place to remind you that you’re an angel. Maybe you’ve just earned your wings and just don’t know how to use them to fly yet.

Archangel

To be fair, you do eventually learn other attacks and powers as you level up. There are also plenty of weapons and armor to collect, with extra bonuses for gathering all four parts of a set. An interesting mechanic even allows you to gamble the loot you just earned in exchange for higher chances of items and bonus gold if you successfully complete the next level on your first try.

There’s just too much silliness to suffer through to dig into the parts of Archangel that are good. This is one of a wave of titles showing how pretty mobile games can look on up-to-date hardware, but the beauty is definitely only skin deep. Gameplay matters, even on phones and tablets. Sorry Gabriel and Michael.