It may have sneaked out early, in apparently unfinished form, but the iPhone take on Assassin's Creed II will finally be out in February. Since last week, I've been playing it. It's Sonic-y.
Assassins' Creed II Discovery was developed by Ubisoft and Griptonite Games, as both a DS game (released last fall) and now as an expanded, more advanced - and cheaper - iPhone iteration. The game is a side-scroller, an action piece starring the same Ezio de Auditore who was the main playable character in Assassin's Creed II. There is no Desmond Miles, the modern-day true hero of the Assassin's Creed games. Nor is there Leonardo Da Vinci nor many of the other supporting characters from ACII. Instead there's Ezio, on an adventure that is set during the "missing" 11th and 12th chapters of Assassin's Creed II, crossing paths with Christopher Columbus and heading to Spain.
"It is canon," Discovery DS and iPhone producer Ben Mattes told Kotaku in a telephone interview last week. The game was made with the consultation of Corey May and Patrice Desilets two of the chief creative minds behind the Assassin's Creed series.
It plays a bit like Assassin's Creed mixed with a Sonic game. Not only is it a side-scroller, but it is one often best played with Ezio moving at high speeds. A slider on the lower left allows analogue control to move Ezio left and right. A simulated button on the lower right of the iPhone allows Ezio to jump. Levels are mostly horizontal, with a few tiers and slopes made of roofs and bridges, caves and ceilings, across which a skilled player will jump and run, bounding over pits and enemies alike, even collecting energy orbs. Enemies stand around waiting for a sword fight. Ezio can dodge them, battle them with taps of the iPhone screen that trigger sword-swings and counter-attacks, or Ezio can be put in a stealth mode and try to sneak in for the kill.
Mattes called the gameplay style: "A Sonic the Hedgehod slash arcade slash 2.5D platformer kind of thing."
The iPhone's accelerometer isn't used in the game. The device's camera is, carrying over a DSi-exclusive feature that allows players to take a photo that will then appear as a sepia-toned wanted poster in the game.
Mattes said the iPhone version of the game features upscaled graphics and improved audio compared to the DS one. More importantly, it also includes a new style of play to complement levels that are based either on stealth or combat. The new style of levels are chases, fast-paced rushes that require the player to sprint Ezio out of a zone full of enemies. The iPhone version also includes a deeper combat system. Context sensitive buttons allow the player to do everything from stab a guy when he's not looking to pulling him off a ledge to his death. The new technique is a struggle mechanic that takes advantage of the iPhone's multitouch screen and requires the player to mash virtual buttons on the left and right of the screen if they are locked in a sword-against-sword struggle.
The game runs really fast and smoothly, with terrific zoomed-in graphics during stealth attacks and struggles. I was playing it on a 3Gs iPhone, though, and can't attest to how the game runs on earlier iPhones and iPod Touches. Mattes said the game supports.
Assassin's Creed II Discovery will be out for the iPhone and iPod Touch in early February for, I'm told, about $US9.99.