Review: Kroll for iPhone

Peter Cohen, Macworld
2 October, 2008
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App Guide

Digital Legends Entertainment made a splash in June when its game, Kroll, joined a parade of 11 apps previewed on stage during Steve Jobs’ Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. As promised back in June, the action-adventure fantasy game developed for the iPhone was released in September, and is available for download from the App Store for $9.99.

Hack Work: There’s not much to the gameplay in Kroll—just move and hack and slash until everything is dead.

If you saw screenshots of Kroll from WWDC and you were expecting the next Diablo, you’re going to be disappointed: Kroll features impressive 3-D graphics, but it’s very much rooted in the side-scrolling coin-op arcade games that were popular in the 1980s.

Titles like Rastan and Golden Axe come to mind immediately when you fire up Kroll, because the game employs very simple mechanics—you move from left to right and swing a giant war-hammer at your foes. To this end, understanding what the design goal was and what the developers were aiming to do, I quite like Kroll, although I recognise the simple style may leave some people disappointed.

Working with a fully realised 3-D environment, Digital Legends has dressed things up a bit in Kroll by occasionally shifting perspective and zooming in and out to give you a better view of the action, but the gameplay stays the same throughout—move, hack and slash, attacking an endless array of creatures that assault you from the front and behind, using on-screen buttons to control the action.

There’s a story involved in Kroll—the title refers to the Lord of Life, a mystical being who is your ultimate enemy. You’re a barbarian warrior on a mission to rescue your daughter, separated from you during a great battle, and you have to battle Kroll’s minions as you make your way through an island filled with monsters (everything from giant scorpions to lava creatures).

You’ll face off three times—in “boss” battles that end each of the game’s three chapters—against a giant. In these boss sequences, the game’s perspective radically changes and so does the gameplay. It goes from a side-scrolling game to a third-person 3-D action game more reminiscent of the PS2 game “Shadow of the Colossus,” as your character is picked up and tossed about by a towering giant with bad teeth in bondage gear. Your goal is to hit the giant at key points to disable (and eventually kill) him—it’s still button-mashing, but timed button mashing. If you succeed at the game’s highest difficult setting, you can also unlock a fourth level, according to the game’s developers. I confess that I hadn’t made it that far as I wrote the review.

Who’s the Boss: At the end of each of Kroll’s three chapters, you’ll face off against this giant in a 3-D action sequence.

“Button mashing” is probably the shortest summary I can give of Kroll. It’s not an overwhelmingly challenging game—it’s more of a fun throwback to ’80s gameplay that I used to love and still have a fond spot in my heart for, mixed with a thoroughly modern 3-D engine that really showcases how beautiful the iPhone can look as a gaming system. At its higher difficulty levels, Kroll adds some challenge, but the basic gameplay is the same.

Priced at $9.99, Kroll costs less than “premium” games from other developers, and that’s a good thing. Digital Legends, which is no stranger to the mobile gaming market, understands that it has to prove itself to a wary market that isn’t familiar with its work, using brand new intellectual property developed specifically for the iPhone. While Kroll is shorter than I’d like and the gameplay is simplistic, it’s still fun and a good novelty.

Kroll is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.

[Senior editor Peter Cohen covers games for Macworld’s Game Room.]

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