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Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard (Xbox 360) artwork

Twin Blades: The Reaping Vanguard (Xbox 360) review

"While itís far from the worst game available on the indie marketplace, Twin Blades is still too hollow to recommend a purchase."

The second you lay your eyes on Twin Blades, its incredibly sharp graphics make it stand out from its peers. Unfortunately, the visuals are where the excitement ends. Though the full game is deeper than the trial version, it still doesnít offer enough. You spend the entire game slaying waves of zombies and even though thereís some semblance of depth with the addition of new and upgradeable weapons and enemies that require some strategy to defeat, the game never rises above being a hollow experience.

As a scythe-wielding nun, youíll slash, blast, freeze and scorch your way through 31 nearly-identical side-scrolling stages filled with zombies. Adding to the repetition is the fact that things aren't even broken up by the occasional boss battle. There's some depth here, sure, but not much. Armored enemies take more bullets to defeat, for instance, so in order to defeat them you'll have to slash them from a distance with your scythe or use another weapon such as the ice beam, the laser beam, the explosion gun or my personal favorite, the flamethrower.

However, using those specialty weapons drains your magic. The only way to replenish it is to use your scythe - so you canít rely on those weapons to get by. I found that the best way to get through the game while retaining health and magic is to quickly blast the zombies with the flamethrower. That leaves them stunned so that you can finish them off with the scythe while refilling your magic gauge in the process. That particular technique works better than any others that are convenient, especially since the lack of a pause menu means that weapons switches are effectively useless due to the amount of time that they require. Aside from the lack of a pause menu for weapon swaps, Twin Blades controls very well. Its button mapping is logical and the jumping, slashing, and secondary weapon usage required throughout the game is as responsive as could be expected.

Unfortunately, the game's visuals underwhelm. While they shine in screenshots that highlight the incredible detail in the hand-drawn characters, weapons and backgrounds, those same high standards aren't adhered to when the game is in motion. Animation isnít particularly fluid and there's little variation in the number of ways in which your enemies can wind up dead; they either get blown up, chopped in half, or decapitated. The repetition can really grow tiresome by the time you near the end of the gameís 31-level run. Three backdropsóa marketplace, a castle and a graveyardódon't help matters when they're repeated throughout the entire game. There are also some major issues with the transparency effects that the developers incorporated, since many objects in the foreground that should barely be visible (stuff like trees and columns) get in the way. That unfortunate fact leads to a lot of cheap hits, especially later on when youíve got large swarms of enemies coming at you and you canít see where you are, where your opponents are in relation to you or even which direction youíre facing.

The music in Twin Blades is surprisingly good, however, and easily the best I've heard in an indie game. While there aren't a lot of songs in the soundtrack, the available selections fit the horror movie theme well. Unfortunately, the aural experience is dragged down a bit due to the awkward transitions between songs. Instead of smoothly changing from one song to the next, one song will conclude and you'll be playing without music for a couple of seconds until the next song finally begins. The gameís sound effects are also fine. They vary not only depending on the weapon that you're using, but on how many enemies you kill with it. Slashing through a pack of six enemies is louder than just slashing through one, which makes risky combat more rewarding.

While itís far from the worst game available on the indie marketplace, Twin Blades is still too hollow to recommend a purchase. Press Start Studioís debut offering does show some promise, however. The graphics are easily the most jaw-dropping to yet arrive on the 360ís Indie scene. If the game's other elements had lived up to the potential that is shown in screenshots, it would be a top-notch game. Unfortunately, nothing else really compares. The result is a repetitious experience that grows old very quickly.

jpeeples's avatar
Freelance review by Jeremy Peeples (February 14, 2010)

Jeremy Peeples has been writing about games since 2000. GameFAQs was his first stop, and that led to a writing gig on Game2Extreme, then VGPub. In 2005, he was brought aboard Hardcore Gamer Magazine, and has been a regular Youtuber since 2006.

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fleinn posted February 21, 2010:

"As a scythe-wielding nun,"

:D Next best sentence in the review. lol. Uh, yeah, so the trees are green, and you're a scythe-wielding nun, and on the left there's a farm and few horses in a field.

Liked the review. It sounds a bit critical about the game because it's only a zombie shooter, which might be a bit harsh. Or, it might seem that you're grading it low because it's actually a good game, and you compare it to deeper games.

I wondered...does the music complement the visual style in some way?
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zigfried posted February 21, 2010:

I've played the game, and agree with the low rating... it's about as empty and un-challenging as empty and un-challenging can be. Although the art and music are decent, there's no feeling of "talent" when it comes to the actual game design. If these people make another indie release, they really need to bring someone else onboard to design the levels.

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aschultz posted February 21, 2010:

Can't say much about the game, since I'll probably never play it, but...long time no see, and nice work.

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