Artificial Life’s last action-packed release, Pandorum, was none too impressive. Happily however, their recent gladiator-based arena fighting game is much better and shows true quality. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is aptly named and based on the Starz’s new TV series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (which in itself is based on an actual history). The game is chock-full of bodiless heads, severed limbs, and tons of gore and blood; something most gamers would gladly jump on. Surprisingly, there aren’t many problems, and Spartacus: Blood and Sand is an extremely fun, realistic, and gruesome fighting game.
Background Story: In the story mode, you play as Spartacus. You will challenge your commanding general, become a slave, train as a gladiator, fight in the dog pits, and then, if successful, challenge the final three opponents for honor and freedom. A strong, wonderfully told story told in between battles provides a realistic setting for the fights, and compels the player to keep on playing to see what happens to the main character next.
Controls: The moves and combos were easy to remember, easy to execute, and beautiful to look at. No thinking or planning required – each button combination makes a different move, and it’s fun switching between the various attacks your character can execute just for style.
In addition, the previous controls had quite a bit of lag with them, but Artificial Life has addressed this in a new update, fixing the unresponsiveness and making this game even better. That shows true effort – they listened to their audience and tweaked the controls accordingly.
Slow-Motion Effects: I have to give credit where credit is due; the slow-motion effects are fantastic. They make moves look even more brutal and aesthetically appealing, and blood spatters across the screen when you manage to slice or pound someone with your weapon.
Character Roster: All the characters have different attacks, and no two animations are the same when you execute a fighting move. This brings fresh gameplay and much replay value to the table when you go back and play one of the Arcade Modes.
Multiple Modes: For those who want a story, they get it in the Story Mode. For those who want a quick game, they get that in the Challenge Mode. For those who want to see how long they can last, they get that in the Survival Mode. There’s definitely a lot of replay value here, and I can see myself coming back to this game time and again. The only bonus the Story Mode gives you is two extra characters if you complete it twice.
Graphics: The graphics a beautiful. The background is somewhat static, but the character models, weapons, and animations are smooth, realistic, and very appealing. Though graphics aren’t the whole of the game, they do make the game just that much better. I believe Artificial Life got this aspect right, and I commend them for that.
Blood and Gore: What would this game be if it didn’t have blood and gore? Gladiators always sustained injuries, especially severe ones, in the heat of battle. In addition, the title of the game even has “Blood” in it, so why should the game have any?
Well, it does. This game is not for the squeamish or bloodophobic – it has blood, and tons of it. Blood will spatter on the ground, on your screen, and around your fighters with every hit you score. In the end, you’ll execute a beautiful and brutal kill combo, slicing off your opponent’s right arm, left arm, head, and then upper torso. Once the enemy is literally lying in pieces in the sand, you’ll move on to the next round. This is gore and dismemberment at its best.
More Death Animations: Currently, no matter what character you use, in the end you’ll kill your enemy by slicing them into the exact same pieces. If there were different death animations the game would be even better.
Currently, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a very worthwhile fighting game, and one of the best on the App Store. I believe it trumps Blades of Glory (by Gameloft), but I guess all a matter of opinion. If you want to feel how it’s like being a gladiator, then look no further. This game is one of the most realistic, bloody, and brutal gladiator-based combat games you’ll ever see. If you’re slightly interested in this type of game at all, get it. Prepare yourself for the arena.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand was developed by Artificial Life, and I played through version 1.01 of the game on my iPod Touch 2G (OS 3.1.2). The current price point of the game is $4.99.