Once again, Assassin's Creed vaults from the home console to the portable platform with the iPhone spin-off Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, starring the second game's Ezio de Auditore as he travels to Spain.
Guide Ezio from platform to platform with touchscreen controls as he attempts to rescue his fellow assassin's from the Inquisition and uncover a Templar plot along the way. Should Assassin's Creed fans give the iPhone another shot, after last year's lesser Altair's Chronicles?
Platforming: Ubisoft and developer Griptonite Games—also responsible for the PSP side-story Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines—really seem to have picked up on what didn't work with Bloodlines. In 3D, Assassin's Creed is a big, vast game, a world that suffers when running on less powerful hardware. The transition to 2D for the DS and the iPhone versions was nothing short of brilliant. It's no longer necessary to fill the city scape with people when you're hauling ass through it—a few relatively stagnant spectators here and there, along with guards on patrol does the trick. Platforming-wise, the running and the jump feel great — exhilarating, even on an iPhone. It is, as Kotaku stated in an earlier preview, somewhat Sonic-y. Players use a slider on the lower left to move Ezio right or left, and while the in-game camera on the iPhone/iPod Touch version isn't exactly helpful, the basic platforming mechanic has a great, old school feel to it.
Combat: The basic straight-up clanging of swords is merely okay. The fun part is moving in for the kill for stealth attacks. While there isn't a huge variety in the killing blow animations, there were just enough to keep me from getting tired or bored with them. New weapons like daggers mix-up gameplay as the title progresses.
Unbalanced: Some of the missions were incredibly easy, others were disproportionately hard. There didn't seem to necessarily be any progression. The initial tutorial, for example, was more difficult than anything thrown at the player in the first couple of stages. This didn't exactly give a strong sense of pacing.
There were other some gripes, like the stiff and overly talky cut scenes after each stage, which expounded upon the story, but felt unnatural and undramatic. The poor voice acting didn't help. But for the player following the Assassin's Creed tale closely, there will surely be something here for them. The core of Assassin's Creed II: Discovery has a great deal to offer, and I applaud the re-imagining of the game as a 2D platformer. It's doesn't always work, but it's a clever move on the part of Ubisoft and developer Griptonite.
As with Bloodlines, I still don't quite feel the portable versions of Assassin's Creed are where they should be. The good thing is that each portable entry is better than the last, and eventually, I know, they'll find the sweet spot. Until then, Discovery does a respectable job of holding us over.
Assassin's Creed II Discovery was developed by Griptonite Games and published by Ubisoft on January 14. Retails for $9.99 USD; Available via the iTunes App Store. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through all stages.