Want to get a taste of the whole "predestined hero" thing without signing on for a 40+ hour commitment? FireFruitForge and Everplay's newly free iOS action-packed hack-and-slasher Spell Sword combines a little bit of platforming with a little bit of fantasy storytelling for one fast-paced addictive experience. Our Hero is an apparently clueless berk who manages to snag himself a fabled sword and promptly sets out to unleash it's true potential. Namely by stabbing lots of things in the face before they can do the same to him, which is incidentally how I also unleash my true potential. With tons of magical cards to power up and upgrade and a whole lot of vicious monsters queuing up for a beatdown, it's a fast-paced challenging experience for fans of RPG-lite experiences that fit in bite-sized timeframes.
Using the arrows on the lower-left side of the screen along with the jump and slash buttons on the right, it's up to you to meet the requirements for each short stage across every area you encounter. You might be asked to destroy a certain amount of enemies within a time limit, gather a number of magical cards, or simply try to survive for a handful of waves. Just stay on your toes, because there's a wide variety of enemies with different abilities looking to eat your precious flesh, to say nothing of the environment hazards you'll need to be nimble to turn to your advantage. Your tools for success are naturally the magical sword for your standard stab-stab-ow-my-flesh shenanigans, as well as the various magic cards you'll unlock which, when picked up as they appear, will both unleash a spell on your enemy and imbue you with different elemental powers. Win, and you'll get rewarded with equipment or rupees, which can also be gathered in each level and then spent on increasing the potency of your spell abilities or on unlocking newfangled items to wear.
With a stunning sense of design and tongue planted firmly in cheek, Spell Sword is a gorgeous, silly little gem with a ton of action. It sort of feels like Super Crate Box's zanier, more RPG-obsessed cousin, and if you enjoy snappy, short arena-style fighting levels, this is well worth checking out. The downside is that it definitely feels a little repetitive as far as "missions" go, and at least on an iPad, the controls aren't really as Johnny Bravo HOO-HA-HOO fast and jumpy as you might like to really navigate all the hazards that will wind up onscreen. Additionally, the recent transition from free-to-play means that unless you enjoy grinding for the ridiculous amounts of rupees needed to unlock the better equipment, you'll probably resent the new microtransactions encouraging you to buy more. If you don't mind the grind, however, and love a challenge, then Spell Sword's beautiful style and frenetic gameplay is crooking a come-hither finger to you. It's fun, it's frantic, and it's free, so check it out and duel an enormous slime monster on pendulous platforms over a pit of despair today.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.