city of brass

A thou­sand and one deaths

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Martin Kitts

With echoes of

Spelunky in its ran­domly gen­er­ated trea­sure hunt and of PrinceOfPer­sia in its trap-filled, scim­i­tar-swing­ing Ara­bian theme,

Ci­tyOfBrass is a short game that will test your pa­tience and en­durance like few oth­ers.

Al­though the end is only 12 brief lev­els and a few bosses away, the dif­fi­culty is set so high that death is al­ways wait­ing around the next cor­ner, and as is tra­di­tional in this rogue­like genre, dy­ing means you get stripped of all your hard-earned items and dumped back at the start.

You en­ter the city armed car­ry­ing only a ba­sic sword, a whip, and (pre­sum­ably) a hu­mungous back­pack in which to store the hun­dreds of gold stat­uettes and jewel-en­crusted plates you grab as you race through the streets and build­ings, pur­sued by howl­ing skele­tal war­riors.

The lev­els are filled with a lu­di­crous amount of traps, and be­cause the lay­out changes ev­ery time, you can never be sure whether a door will con­ceal a pit of spikes or some spears that stab up through the floor, or a vent that puffs out an ex­tremely an­noy­ing blast of deadly sand with no ob­vi­ous in­di­ca­tion of its lethal ra­dius. As a gen­eral rule you can con­sider all door­ways to be prob­a­ble death­traps, and rush­ing through them will in­evitably whittle away your pre­cious health points.

Be­cause it’s not sen­si­ble to run around blindly when the next floor tile is highly likely to slice you to rib­bons, and by the very na­ture of the game, you have no idea ex­actly what’s com­ing up next, slow and me­thod­i­cal progress is the key to reach­ing the next level with enough health to get a lit­tle fur­ther. Con­se­quently, get­ting mobbed by en­e­mies is in­evitable, and you’ll al­ways have a fight on your hands.

The whip can be used to knock op­po­nents off their feet, dis­arm them, tem­po­rar­ily blind them, or even drag them closer to get them within sword range. You can also knock them back­wards into traps or smash through them while slid­ing on your knees, and there are plenty of ex­plo­sive vases and pots of fire scat­tered around for tak­ing down mul­ti­ple en­e­mies at once.

Into bat­tle

The ba­sic com­bat toolset is sim­i­lar to

Bul­let­storm, but it’s nowhere near as slick in ac­tion. It’s all very well hav­ing mul­ti­ple hit zones and a two-handed, whip-crack­ing, sword-slash­ing fight­ing style, but the con­trols are so twitchy and im­pre­cise that it’s hard to pull off any de­cent com­bos. You might be aim­ing to whip a skele­ton’s head but you’re just as likely to hit its body, feet or hands as it rushes to­wards you. If it gets too close your whip will al­most cer­tainly pass straight through it, and the same thing hap­pens all the time with the sword— it’s not easy to judge the dis­tance, and there’s a sig­nif­i­cant lag be­tween press­ing a but­ton and any­thing hap­pen­ing on screen.

Of course, while you’re des­per­ately air-slash­ing at fu­ri­ous skele­tons and con­stantly stay­ing on the move to avoid get­ting shot with ar­rows or magic blasts, there’s a pretty good chance of step­ping on one of those traps and get­ting skew­ered. Oh, and there’s a time limit, too. City Of Brass may be very nice to look at, but it’s far from a re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to play.

Luck­ily there are ways of shift­ing the odds slightly back in your fa­vor, mainly through the Ge­nie shops that of­fer a chance to ex­change some of your loot for im­proved weapons or other abil­i­ties. The de­fault whip only ever stuns en­e­mies so the fiery ver­sion is an es­sen­tial pur­chase, al­low­ing you to set crea­tures on fire and leave them to burn rather than hav­ing to fin­ish them off at close range.

You can also buy bet­ter ar­mor, dis­able the traps for a while, or hire a ghostly buddy who will fol­low you around and at­tack any­thing that moves un­til he’s even­tu­ally over­whelmed. All of this use­ful stuff comes at such a high price, it’s not pos­si­ble to get ev­ery­thing you might want, and the shops only stock a small se­lec­tion of items any­way. But they do make a dif­fer­ence, and be­ing stripped of all your up­grades af­ter dy­ing swiftly be­comes a mas­sive dis­in­cen­tive to try­ing again.

Shoul­der­ing Bur­dens

The only per­ma­nent things you gain af­ter lev­el­ling up are called Bur­dens, which func­tion like the skulls in Halo and make things even more chal­leng­ing. There’s an achieve­ment for fin­ish­ing the game with all Bur­dens turned on, which is surely des­tined to re­main one of the rarest ones on Xbox. On the pos­i­tive side, you have ac­cess to a full set of com­ple­men­tary Bless­ings right from the start, which rule you out of the leader­boards but make the game a lit­tle less ar­du­ous, with eas­ier en­e­mies, more health, no time limit and so on. While it might not be the hard­core way to play, it beats find­ing your­self with no money and on your last por­tion of health be­fore you’re even half­way through. Back to the start you go. Short it may be, but City

OfBrass comes close to out­stay­ing its wel­come in very lit­tle time.

“The dif­fi­culty is set so high that death is al­ways wait­ing around the next cor­ner”

Left There’s no ebb and flow to the com­bat. It’s ba­si­cally just fran­tic slash­ing.

Far Left You only get that many life hearts if you wimp out and play with Bless­ings turned on. Oops!

right The nar­row field of view makes it hard to track en­e­mies to ei­ther side.

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