Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles – In what’s arguably one of the biggest releases yet on the iPhone, Gameloft has taken on the ambitious task of making the first iPhone game based on Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. The franchise was launched in 2007 and introduced gamers everywhere to a bad-ass assassin named Altair terrorizing ruthless characters during the Third Crusade back in the 12th century.

The world of Assassin’s Creed was based on meticulously detailed 3D worlds that were informed by factual records to establish authenticity. While the iPhone doesn’t come close to having the juice to fully capture the experience found on an Xbox 360 or PS3, the guys at Gameloft have gone with a different approach with Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles for the iPhone, an enhanced port of the side-scrolling (for the most part) Nintendo DS title of the same name.

Assassin’s Creed Altair’s Chronicles is a prequel to the original game. Throughout the game’s eight-hour duration, your ultimate goal is to find the mystical Chalice, and you’ll traverse five different historical cities (e.g. Damascus, Jerusalem, etc.) to find it. In your travels, you’ll come across a variety of interesting characters that’ll scheme, plot, help, and attempt to kill you along the way. All in a day’s work for an assassin by trade.

I’d describe Altair’s Chronicles as a 2.5D stealth action-platform game. Altair does his dirt by operating in the shadows and rooftops. His preference is to get the job done without the fanfare and attention that generally comes with a public assassination. As you can imagine, it takes a great amount of dexterity and agility to hop from building to building, and this is where you’ll do much of the platforming. You’ll jump, swing, climb, and tip-toe your way through the game using the on-screen control pad. It’s highly responsive, but there will be times when you’ll be frustrated over the lack of precision on some of the trickier platform sequences.

While traditional combat isn’t Altair’s preferred method of engaging his foes, the controls work wonderfully with responsive on-screen buttons. Along with typical options to execute light and strong sword attacks, executing counter-attacks feels good using a combination of the block and attack functions. In being true to the original Assassin’s Creed, Altair also has a stealth option to kill enemies by sneaking up on them.
One final gameplay-oriented consideration to touch on is the cool mini-games that are tied into the storyline. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter several quid-pro-quo scenarios to continue to progress in the game. Sometimes it’s as easy as killing a bad guy or simply relaying a message, but the scenarios are always interesting. As a cool way to include some interactivity in these moments, Gameloft has baked in some mini-games to spruce things up. For example, early in the game, you’ll meet a guy that obviously isn’t being completely forthright in the information he’s providing you. Instead of killing him, you can inflict a bit of torture through a QTE to get him to talk. I won’t spoil some of the other scenarios you’ll run into, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Gameloft has created quite the track record for making beautiful-looking games that push the iPhone’s hardware, and Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles is no exception. The polygonal cities in the game are powered by excellent art and detailed textures. Altair has a wide array of animations (e.g. acrobatic jumps, fight combinations, etc.) that create an impression that he is a virtuoso assassin. The only downer in this respect is some noticeable slowdown that creeps in when things get busy on screen. In addition to the visuals, the sound design here is wonderful. Whether it’s the chatter of the hustle and bustle in the cities, voice-over acting, or the beautiful score; I’m confident that you’ll be blown away by the quality of the audio (especially with a pair of good headphones).

Ten bucks is a lot for an iPhone game, but Gameloft has created a bonafide premium iPhone experience. Assassin’s Creed is an extremely accessible game that casual, core and hardcore gamers can all enjoy for several hours. With the iPhone lacking in top-tier platform/action games right now, Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles has firmly entrenched itself as the standard for the genre.

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