Blades of Time Review (PS3)

Blades of Time doesn't make a good first impression. Ayumi, the lead character of this hack 'n slash tale, is one of the most irritating heroines in recent memory. She wiggles around in a skimpy outfit, searching for valuable treasure in a variation of challenging and savage lands. Her martial arts ability, although effective, is flawed. Worst of all, she loves to analyse everything with stupid one-liners and rhetorical questions. Without beating around the bush, Ayumi is an idiot.

Any game that forces you to take an instant dislike to the lead character is always going to struggle. As an opening, the Volcanic Dale that you're thrust into is particularly testing. Shallow combat is briefly explained as a two-button set-up that never extends beyond bashing the controller as quickly as possible. Enemies spew from rocky crevices, forcing you to become one with the formula immediately.

It's fun to stay at the...

Gaijin's production certainly isn't all doom and gloom, though. While the combat is shallow, each frantic battle is caped by an intriguing time mechanic. Ayumi, as agile and deadly as she is, often becomes outnumbered. As a lone-wolf, it's somewhat fortunate she has the ability to rewind time. If a group of enemies are proving too difficult, reversing an encounter provides a one-up on those who seek blood. Every event that's already taken place will play out once more via the efforts of a ghost-like Ayumi, but you're free to attack alongside your new partner. Do this three of four times, and you have yourself an Ayumi Army.

As the game progresses, the time mechanic is used in a number of different ways. Most bosses massively overshadow the protagonist, and are draped in some kind of armour that must be intelligently bypassed. One foe has a regenerating health-pack strapped to his back, but is extremely hard to get behind. With a few time rewinds, his attention is snatched by the other Ayumi's that leap across screen. For a few seconds, he'll forget where the real danger lies. A couple of strikes with your swords soften him up, and then you can leap onto his shoulders. Do this once, and you're going to win. After carrying out such an action, rewinding a handful of times overpowers the giant. Multiple Ayumi's simultaneously chop at his health-pack, forcing him to the deck with great speed.

Certain puzzles are also manipulated through time, but these never distract for too long. Simple actions such as standing on two switches at once are commonplace, but these generally get more frustrating as the game progresses. It's clear that Gaijan has created a potentially excellent mechanic, but hasn't quite got to grips with it yet.

Some enemies are huge, others are annoying

For all the interesting moments this element creates, Blades of Time manages to unravel the hard work. Enemies are repetitive and faceless. You'll come up against pirates, gluttonous giants, stone knights, and even raptors wearing bondage gear. Later on, these raptors turn invisible. This might sound interesting, but originality is soon lost through repetition, as the developer focus on creating as many fight sequences as possible.

Early on, the acquisition of a rifle ensures frustration for the entire game. Many opponents prefer long-distance conflict, taking the high ground in order to steer away from trouble. Shooting is tedious and doesn't feel right amongst the cleverness of rewinding time. After firing a few bullets, replaying your action will eliminate any stragglers rather quickly. Most of the time Ayumi's ability to distort reality places her on an even playing field, but when using guns, it makes her too strong.

Annoyingly, plenty of other gripes consistently appear. The most intense battles are often greeted with a crippling frame-rate slowdown, rendering the action pointless. At times, I had to twitch through cutscenes and other sections. Alongside this, an unresponsiveness provides plenty of frustration. You can get trapped amongst groups of opponents, unable to unleash a move in order to escape. The animation seems to get stuck, meaning you can't even heal when getting battered from all directions. Even at it's most glorious, Blades of Time never feels finished.

Not many games would be better off without guns, but this one certainly would

Co-op is included, but it's almost not worth mentioning. Outbreak mode allows you and a friend to take on a number of online challenges, but even the most loyal fan will struggle to spend any major time here. A nice try, I guess.

Blades of Time never matches up to the well-executed time mechanic it so readily deploys. For this one good idea, plenty of other stinkers ensure the title is nothing more than a sloppy mess. It's a real shame, as underneath the ugliness, there's potential for an interesting game to appear. Unfortunately, Blades of Time's most defining feature forces you to continually question whether or not you want to play on, an analysis that barely justifies the cheap retail price.

Top Gaming Moment: Manipulating time works well, and holds great potential for the future.

Format Played: Xbox 360