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Critical Reception: Chair Entertainment's Infinity Blade II

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Chair's Infinity Blade II, which reviewers describe as "a technically and visually gifted game that consistently delivers eye-popping stuff."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Chair's iOS action-adventure title Infinity Blade II, which reviewers describe as "a technically and visually gifted game that consistently delivers eye-popping stuff." Infinity Blade II currently earns a score of 90 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Touch Arcade's Brad Nicholson gives Infinity Blade II 5 out of 5 stars. "We put incredibly powerful devices in our pockets and on our laps daily, but rarely do we see games that utterly embrace this like Infinity Blade has," he begins. "It's a showcase piece; a technically and visually gifted game that consistently delivers eye-popping stuff." Nicholson continues: "Infinity Blade II is a step a step or two beyond what was accomplished in the original, adding in layers and layers of next-level environmental and character texture detail on top of a ton of fantastic ambient touches -- sharper shadows, stronger lighting, and a glut of atmospheric effects bolster what's already a visual delight, especially on iPad 2 and iPhone 4S." Nicholson praises Infinity Blade II's expanded narrative. "As in the first [game], you'll be once again stuck in a cyclical play loop, forever walking the halls of this new fortress as you puzzle out what it has to offer," he explains. "But now the protagonist is as aware of his plight as you are, and you'll be doing things in this new place with this knowledge in tow." "Combat has been expanded, too," Nicholson claims, "and its constituent parts tweaked. Dodging, for example, is now monitored by an endurance bar. Dodge too many times in succession, and you'll take tick damage from narrowly avoided blows. Parries seem much more accurate, now, as well, and are much more encouraged by virtue of the dodge nerf." "It's a consistently well put together visual feast that shows off what Unreal 3, and now your new devices, can do," Nicholson writes. "And it's great that the core gameplay structure and action model still deliver. Basically everything that Infinity Blade does has been expanded on for Infinity Blade II." Mike Phillips at 1UP.com gives Infinity Blade II a B+ grade. "Upon finishing my first battle in Infinity Blade II, I was gravely concerned that [...] I was trapped in another endless loop of the same gameplay I'd so fully exhausted a year ago," he admits. "I was dead wrong. It doesn't take long for this follow-up to the poster child for iPhone gaming to show its stuff and set it apart from its predecessor as a worthy sequel." Phillips finds that the new combat system gives the game needed variety. "In addition to taking on foes using a sword and shield as you did in the first game, you'll now have the option of selecting dual wield weapons or heavy weapons," he explains. "Dual wielding turns you into a whirling dervish of death -- with no concern for blocking attacks, you instead dodge, duck, and deal damage with great speed. Heavy weapons transform the combat into a satisfying, bone-crunching slugfest that I keep coming back to as my default set." "All these new systems and enhancements make the fighting feel fresh and exciting," Phillips asserts. "Every time you begin to tire of a certain style, you can switch your weapon loadout, vary your tactics, and have a different experience altogether. In fact, the game encourages this via a series of optional challenges for each fight." "The fighting is not without its frustrations, though they are few," Phillips warns. "Certain weapons -- especially heavy weapons -- can obscure the camera in some fights to the point that you can't see where your opponent attacks from. [...] You may also find, as I did early in the game, a certain weapon and gem combo that's incredibly overpowered. For an extended portion of the game, I was taking out normal enemies in a single combo." Phillips notes that Chair's frequent updates are another strong selling point: "That history of providing new content and support for their last game, along with the promise of more to come for this one (such as the recent update which fixed the initial version's audio bugs among other things; and a multiplayer content pack), make it easy to recommend picking up Infinity Blade II." Eurogamer's Mark Brown scores Infinity Blade II at 8 out of 10. "It's fitting, isn't it, that Infinity Blade should return this way," he writes. "As in, it looks virtually identical to last year's effort but hides a layer of ability and confidence that Chair's inaugural iOS release missed." "This time round, the fighting system has fathoms more depth," Brown explains. "By having three types of sword -- light, heavy and dual -- on your person at all times, you can quickly leap between loadouts for different types of enemy, or focus on one particular class and tailor it to your style of play. In much the same vein, Infinity Blade II encourages customisation through a bagful of magical gems." Brown finds that Infinity Blade II's generational "Groundhog Day formula" makes for tense combat. "It's all about the heightened stakes, because slipping up and getting yourself killed means warping back to the beginning of the castle and having to do the entire trek again," he recalls. "Games don't often supply such tense moments these days because there's usually a checkpoint just before the boss. Such unwavering, retrograde punishment for failure is refreshing. And it makes your eventual win that much sweeter." However: "Infinity Blade II's less linear map does mean the game slightly loses its focus. Instead of going back to the same boss over and over again until you defeat it, it's easy to get distracted down a different corridor and end up in the mitts of a completely different high-level baddy. The singular pursuit of your nemesis, the God King, in the first game was more feisty, if less ambitious." "The novelty of repeated bucket-kicking has dampened a little," Brown admits. "And towards the end, the game just starts throwing high-level bastards in your face to see how many you can take. The core formula that defined Infinity Blade and made it so interesting has been tarnished in the move to write an App Store description with some higher numbers than before. "But Chair's unreal sword-swinging romp still puts up a hefty fight, and most of the added loot adds just enough to bring Infinity Blade fans back for a second, vengeful stab at victory."

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