Tehra: Dark Warrior, a game produced and developed by StormBasic Games initially as an iPhone application, has been brought across to PS3 Minis allowing the game to be playable on both the PSP and the PS3 console via the PlayStation Network. It presents itself as a 3D Adventure Hack n' Slash title, but does it transition over from the iPhone properly?
The game sets up the story by describing a long-standing war between two races, the humans and the Urka'h. Due to the ferocity of the war, both races are on the brink of extinction, so a treaty was formed known as the Treaty of Tarkhubal. In order for the treaty to remain un-violated a special assassin was created, one who would be comprised of both races and would hand out punishment fairly. She was created from the Noblest of the Humans and the Strongest of the Urka'h and named Tehra.
The game follows the story of Tehra as she is sent to investigate a demon king who had broken the treaty. This is presented in still images and serves the purpose of providing a narrative, but doesn't really feel all that compelling. From then on the story is rather bland as the game recaps briefly between each chapter/part on Tehra's progress and next goal. There is a minor twist very early on with the form of the Demon King appearing to be in league with dragons but aside from that the story takes a very backseat role.
It doesn't take long to realise the gameplay is quite limited. Enemies are automatically targeted based on proximity and attacks are created through a simple mashing of the Square button. This works quite well for the most part, up until enemies start to stand their ground completely unimpressed by Tehra's strikes. There are two ways to deal with this, a block and a roll, but neither of them actually works correctly. The problem being that going from attacking to a block or roll takes approximately a second in delay from the button being pressed. One could assume this is to do with the animations ending on attacks, but it's more to do with the fact that the block stance doesn't take instant effect. It makes combat rather frustrating and eventually players will have to resort to hit and run strategies with harder opponents.
While the game sports a skill-based system for acquiring new magic and combat abilities, there are only two additions to the combat tree in the form of a running attack and a counterattack. The counterattack can be quite useful, but the damage it does is so minute it's not even worth bothering. With regards to the magic there are two main kinds of spell: single and area of effect. The only problem is that the area of effect magic often hits several enemies which will be healed by the fire spell making it more or less worthless. To top it off the mana consumed by these spells is rather copious for the amount of damage they inflict, and while players can obtain mana from killing enemies, they'll often want to save it up for Tehra's demonic form.
The demonic form is very important for dealing with particularly strong opponents and is triggered by pressing the left trigger when Tehra has full mana. In this state Tehra becomes invincible while the mana bar depletes. Being hit reduces the mana bar faster, but Tehra is able to land harder and more hits on an enemy without the worry of losing actual health. This becomes crucial for dealing with certain enemies like the Red Skeletons who are seemingly relentless with their attacks. But the downside to this ability or rather the trigger of it, means that magic might as well not be in the game.
Speaking of the enemies, the AI is easily confused. Simply running away and turning sharply away from them cause enemies to falter in their movements. However, it's not particularly advantageous for the player as they can also turn 180 on the spot if a player strikes them from behind - it's just funny. Aside from this they are completely immune to barriers and traps that would normally prevent the player from moving out of a particular spot until enemies are defeated. Couple this with the fact that projectiles will pass through opponents and still hit Tehra and things get very frustrating very easily.
It has to be said though that the actual movement controls for Tehra are extremely fluid and moving around with the analog stick is very precise. However, when enemies surround Tehra, even with a substantial gap to move through, Tehra seems to require twice the actual space to move through it. This of course makes getting beaten to a pulp by multiple opponents all too easy to succumb to, and when a certain stage has taken several minutes of very careful attacking, to die at the very end and be unable to do anything about it is frustrating to say the least.
Aside from that the game does try to mix up its gameplay a little bit by having a few different elements that don't just involve solid fighting. However, even with this the game is extremely linear and it's made even more apparent by a completely fixed camera. Moving towards the camera can be a little bit daunting when a player can't see what they are encroaching onto. There are a few other annoyances in the game such as the fact that jumping looks extremely lethargic and the game will only display information on enemy health bars when it decides that an encounter is of a boss level, presenting the problem of working out which enemies are in fact nearly dead.
Regardless of the fixed camera the game does still show off its graphical potential. Certain areas of the game are quite well designed with consistent variation throughout stages, even if they are broken up by constant loading screens. The music is suitably apt for the game as well helping to accentuate the action, and give a greater sense of purpose to the battles. There isn't much to be said for the replay value of the game on the other hand though, as while there is a challenge mode, with five challenges in total four of these are completely unreflective of the games difficulty by being extremely easy against the weakest enemies in the game, while the fifth steps up the difficulty into the realms of the impossible.
Tehra: Dark Warrior is without a doubt a very mediocre game. It suffers heavily from a broken combat system, which makes the game extremely repetitive and bland. While the graphics aren't that bad they aren't entirely inspiring either and the game has limited lasting appeal unless people want to play through it again. If the blocking was a bit more responsive and gameplay tweaked up a bit more it would have been passably decent, but sadly it isn't.