God Of War: Betrayal
fills in the gaps between the first two God of War games, when Kratos defeated Ares to claim an Olympian throne and got something of a big head about it. In telling the tale of Kratos' rise before a spectacular fall at the beginning of God of War II, many will tremble at the feet of this warrior-god and many a god will be displeased.
Kratos' first mobile adventure is a 2D side-scroller, not entirely unlike those we saw during the glory days of the 16-bit generation. But it's important to note right away that God of War: Betrayal is not just a cookie-cutter platformer with Kratos pasted over some other non-descript hero. This is God of War, through and through. The action and puzzle elements are very much true to the original PS2 games -- this really is an extension of the God of War universe.
Kratos is all about action, so expect to jam on the 5 button regularly to use his brutal attacks. His default weapon, the chain swords (Athena's Blades) whip all around the screen, slicing up enemies, tossing them into the air, and leaving them on the floor in a crumpled mess. You do not have as many combo possibilities in God of War: Betrayal as you did in God of War II, but there are still several combos such as running into an enemy as you unleash the chain swords. Kratos has access to several other choice weapons, such as Medusa's Head, Army of Hades, and the Blade of Artemis. Each one of these weapons or magic attacks have their own strengths against numerous underlings or vicious boss monsters.
The contextual attacks also book a return engagement in God of War: Betrayal. You'll have moments when you can grab hold of a weakened enemy and then use a series of button inputs to trigger a crushing final blow. Unfortunately, though these are indeed functional, they can prove frustratingly tricky as you have a brief amount of time to input the commands, but the controls on most handsets are quite small. I tested the game on an LG VX8600 -- good phone -- and had some trouble not only getting the timing right, but also sometimes making out the actual command. Was that a left or an up arrow?
As you slash and maim, red orbs are unleashed from corpses that can power up your weapons and magical skills -- just like the PS2 games. And the force of each upgrade is immediate. Upping the Blade of Artemis makes the sword more and more lethal, lowering the number of hits required against creatures like the minotaur. Chests are also sprinkled throughout the levels, filled with red, blue, and green orbs. Green orbs fill health, blue orbs replenish spent magic. Some chests are placed out in the open, but others require a bit of classic platform-puzzle work. These out of the way chests, found by seeking out a distant lever or powering through a horde, often house Phoenix Feathers and Gorgon Eyes. Phoenix Feathers increase your magic resource while Gorgon Eyes extend Kratos' life bar.
But what makes this all very special is that the game was designed with all of these God of War mechanics in mind. Chest placement, enemy hordes, the use of specific weapons -- these are not just feature stapled onto a basic platformer. This is God of War from the ground up.
Level design in God of War: Betrayal is exceptional. You'll have stages that mix open-field combat with some Prince- of Persia-esque puzzle work, such as moving crates, swinging across gaps, and crossing narrow beams. Levels stretch both vertical and horizontal, giving you ample room for running and jumping antics. The color palette is dreary and muted, appropriate for creating the kind of wrecked landscapes that Kratos often paints red by the end of the stage anyway.
Kratos is something of a vain fellow -- he likes to look good while he's ripping the pillars of Olympus asunder. God of War: Betrayal will not let down franchise fans that love Kratos' graceful, deadly blood ballets. Sony boasts over 100 individual animations for Kratos, and I'm apt to believe them. Even though the Kratos sprite is a little small -- I do wish he was larger and showed more detail -- he does know how to move. The blood spatter is copious, which is somewhat surprising for a mobile game, but also perfectly aligned with the mature nature of the console games. The music and sound deserve special note, too. The game's main theme is pure God of War and the sound effects of ripping and cutting will satisfy fans