The action platformer has been around arguably as long as the Atari, but really swept the gaming industry when a little game called “Super Mario Bros.” landed on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983.
For years, it was the dominant genre in the industry, though it was replaced unceremoniously with the first person shooter when 1993’s “Doom” shook up the industry. Today, the dominant genre of game might be the Battle Royale, though the first-person shooter still clings to many a popular title.
But what of the action platformer? We get them in two forms; in main releases for Nintendo consoles, which have evolved and elevated the genre when other consoles abandoned it, and back-to-basic indie games aiming to make a game that looks and feels good, but without a triple A budget.
“Sword of Xolan” for Android and Apple iOS is one such indie game, following the titular Xolan in his quest to save villagers imprisoned throughout the game’s 30 levels, while hacking, slashing and burning his way through monsters of all kinds.
Xolan looks gorgeous, thanks to its 32/64 bit graphics. Xolan would look right at home on a Game Boy Advance, but unfortunately it has the controls of a Game Boy Advance game, especially when you compare it to other mobile action/adventure games, like “Apple Knight”, which has near perfect controls you can adjust the size of if you have large or small fingers.
Xolan’s controls often stick, especially when you’re trying to jump in a particular direction, and if you have relatively large thumbs, you might find the size of the on-screen buttons a little too small, which can lead to you pressing the wrong button in a tight situation, or you missing a key button you need. A simple fix would be the option to resize the buttons, as while Xolan lets you change the position of them, such a sizing option is seriously lacking.
Xolan aims to be played like a game made in the early 2000s, as there are no checkpoints in its levels, and when you die, you have to start the level over again, which, combined with the less than perfect controls, can be a major turn off for some people. But if you stick with it, like those old games Xolan is modeled after, you’ll learn to play around the game’s imperfections.
Xolan has a health meter of about three hits, though if you collect enough coins, you can buy cards in-game that unlock additional abilities, one of them being an extra heart container. He also has a mana meter that allows you to use his one magic attack, a fireball, three times, although you can unlock a fourth slot for this as well.
Xolan offsets its difficulties by leaving plenty of blue potions, that replenish your mana in full, and hearts, which replenish your health by one, which mostly appear after you kill a monster (coins also appear this way). Xolan is unique in the regards that, if your health or mana is full, it will not let you pick up additional health/blue potions; they stay on the dungeon floor and never disappear, which allows for a level of strategy, especially in the game’s later levels, where mana and health are scarce.
The game’s physics are OK. I like how nimble Xolan is, which allows for him to hop in front and back of enemies to get in hits with his sword, but he drops like a rock from even places that are modestly high. You eventually get used to the physics, and this is when the game becomes fun.
The villagers you save are also hidden well, making use of false walls that lead to secret passageways. You can unlock an ability through the game’s card mechanic that will give you hints to hidden areas, but even these won’t reveal all the game’s secrets, which gives it replay value and adds an extra level of challenge that I appreciate.
At the end of all three areas are boss battles, but they’re nothing to write home about. The bosses for Areas 1 and II are moderately challenging, but the game’s final boss is a joke.
The game also has a time challenge mode comprised of nine levels in which you must destroy all targets in a given time to win, but it doesn’t add much value to the game. It’s an OK add on for a mobile game, but it pales in comparison to proper time trial modes in other games.
Xolan has ads, which you can pay to remove, but none ore unskippable or intrusive, which is very appreciated.
Overall, “Sword of Xolan” is a fun time that will keep you occupied for a week or two. I wish it implemented more mana powers and I wish it had more levels, but once you get used to it, its core gameplay is solid, and each level is well-crafted. A lot of love went into this game, and it shows.
“Sword of Xolan” gets an 8/10