Release Date: December 16th, 2010
Available on: Mobile
Let’s get this out of the way now. Shadow Guardian is a pretty blatant rip-off of the Uncharted series. It doesn’t even really try to hide that. Since Uncharted is probably never coming to the iPod this isn’t a huge issue, but if everything looks just a little too familiar from that game there’s a reason why.
In Shadow Guardian you play as Jason Call, a member of an organization that… does things. That’s actually never really explained, they’re just an organization. Jason has been captured by evil Russian man Novik, who apparently needs some kind of information from him. The problem is Jason can’t remember what Novik needs as his memories got messed up. The levels you play is pretty much Novik trying to reassemble Jason’s memories as they get closer to what he needs. Everytime they show one of the interrogation scenes though I have to laugh. It pretty much consists of Novik walking around and touching every single thing in the environment while saying complete nonsense. But at least he is voice acted, something the rest of the characters either don’t or barely have. Besides the interrogation scenes and a few random cutscenes the game just uses text that shows up across the top of the screen. It feels off since Jason talks and mutters to himself all the time, similar to how Uncharted’s Nathan Drake does. Where as Nathan is fully voice acted very well, Jason is completely silent and it just doesn’t work. Likewise, Jason lacks the chemistry between other characters that Nathan has. He barely interacts with them at all and when he does it just feels forced.
The similarities between the two games also show up in the gameplay. Like Uncharted, Shadow Guardian is a third person shooter with heavy platforming elements. Unlike Uncharted, Shadow Guardian doesn’t really care about puzzles at all and besides for a single disc rotation puzzle you’ll never see them in the game. Shooting is really simple in Shadow Guardian. All you need to do is hit the aim button to aim down the sights, and then hit fire until the target is dead. You don’t need to worry about aiming, when you aim down the sights you’ll snap to the nearest target right away. You can aim yourself, of course, but this auto aim makes the game significantly easier. You actually don’t even need to aim, if you just fire while walking Jason will auto shoot at the closest target (at severely reduced damage). Combine this with the ability to take cover and a very large health bar and I had a pretty hard time trying to die in this game. If you find the bullets are too easy, you can run next to enemies and use melee attacks. Melee combat only requires you to rapidly tap the attack button until the meter fills up so you use your attack against the enemies. If you mess up you’ll get counter attacked, but it’s hard to do so and again it feels like you need to intentionally try to fail to actually do so.
There are a few times the game tries to mix the shooting up. The game isn’t shy about diving into some supernatural elements at all, which works in its favor. Early on you get a boss fight against a giant beetle enemy, which leads to running around avoiding it’s attacks while taking out it’s legs and chest. Later on you encounter some weird zombie enemies which grab you and pull you around unless you manage to break free. It’s the change up that the game needs and it goes a long way into helping it. The ending contains a really neat section where you ride a stone golem around that fires lasers. It’s a little (really) silly, but it’s something that I wished more of the game had.
Platforming is the other big thing you’ll be doing in the game. Jason has the ability to climb around any surface with cracks or holes, and can jump around on poles, ropes, and the like. In theory this should allow for pretty good exploration of environments and the like. In practice the game will tell you exactly where you need to go and what you need to do. There is little to no chance to break off the path the game sets up for you. You’ll just be herded from one point to the next by glowing red arrows. It’s especially annoying when the game shows you a large room with a complicated looking puzzle and instead of letting you figure it out it’ll lead you by the hand on what to do. Even worse, it’s impossible to fail the platforming. You automatically climb just by simply moving the stick in the direction you want to go. If you ever need to jump then the jump button shows up on the screen and you’ll always make the jump without fail. Sometimes platforms collapse under you, but you’ll always catch the one below it and survive. This makes the platforming feel less like gameplay and more just like a cinematic way to get from fight A to fight B.
Shadow Guardian is on the short end, if you put the effort into it you can finish it in about a day, and the only replay value after you do so is that you can collect the five trophies hidden in each stage. The trophies themselves don’t seem to do anything for the gameplay though. Otherwise, there’s little else to do besides replay the game on a harder difficulty setting.
At the end I guess I didn’t hate Shadow Guardian. I wouldn’t pay the asking price of $7 for it, but if it’s on sale it’s recommendable. If you’re not expecting a console quality game then it’s an enjoyable enough romp.