Review: Edge of Twilight: Athyr Above

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First revealed more than half a decade ago, Edge of Twilight is a new fantasy steampunk world created by Fuzzyeyes for a series of games across multiple genres and platforms. First came Horizon, an iOS and Android Temple Run clone which seemed to have very little in the way of story or connection to the Edge of Twilight world. More recently comes the iOS release of Athyr Above, a not-so-tasty morsel of what the world potentially has to offer and supposedly a prequel to the troubled main Edge of Twilight game in development for PC and consoles.

Edge of Twilight is a world split into two identities, Day and Night. Of course both sides clash and struggle to gain power over the other. In Athyr Above, Lex is a unique character in that he can transform and be one with both sides. The queen of the Day has tasked Lex to destroy three power cores which keep the balance in place between Day and Night. Athyr Above begins with an incredibly detailed, high production, well polished cut scene which provides backstory and exposition to our morphing hero, while at the same time assumes players have any sort of knowledge into the sprawling world that makes up the Edge of Twilight universe. During this lengthy opening cutscene, the queen explains that her scientists have figured out a way to fix the split after all three cores are defeated. Lex grudgingly accepts the queen’s task, and thus begins the game in proper fashion.

For all the beauty and detail that was put into it, it is a shame to say that the opening sequence is the only good thing going for this game. Athyr Above is an action brawler that offers players two choices of input: Virtual analog stick and buttons, or a strange “hold/press the screen to lock on and then rub the screen until the enemy is dead” control scheme. I hate virtual sticks and buttons. They don’t offer any tactile feedback when your thumb has moved too far up or over to indicate that you’ve slipped off the stick (other than the fact your character has stopped moving). Additionally, there is no tactile representation between buttons to help indicate whether or not your right finger is resting or pressing on the correct action. So I figured I’d try the rubbing method first.

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The problem with the rubbing method in the context of an action brawler is that enemies don’t come at your character one at a time, nor from just one direction. Holding your finger down on one enemy and rubbing the screen until it is dead provides two distinct disadvantages. First, your damn finger is blocking the view of what it is you are trying to see and attack. Second, once you are locked on and attacking, the animation timing is so clunky that you can’t lift your finger and quickly tap and hold down on a different enemy attacking from behind before that second (or third or fourth) enemy lands an attack, sending your character tumbling to the ground. Tap, hold, rub sounds great in theory for a button-less device, but in execution sucks a big rubber hose.

So back to virtual stick and buttons I went. After clumsily working through a level or two with this input method, I acclimated myself to the poor response in animation cycles enough to suffer my way through the rest of the adventure. For as bad as the rub input method is, the virtual sticks at least provide some ability to see enemies from all directions and stop an attack in one direction long enough to turn Lex to face the opposite direction and attempt to attack or roll out of the way of an enemy to avoid being hit. At least with the virtual stick and buttons, movement and actions almost make sense. “A” jumps, “B” attacks and depending on how you choose to spend ether points, which are earned from gems that drop from defeated enemies, additional special attacks appear on the screen.

For as rich and detailed as the opening is, the rest of the game provides no additional story or cutscene interludes. Instead it is filled with ten waves of walking through a linear environment gated by enemy encounters every few paces. Each encounter is the same: Two or three waves of enemies spawn in while energy walls block further progress until the waves of enemies are defeated. Enemies range from wasp-like flying pests and low-end grunts up to hulking mutants that throw rocks and smash the ground for a knock back. There is no real strategy to the encounters other than to tap the virtual “B” button constantly until the enemies are dead. One of the biggest obstacles to several of the encounters is the camera. Without having a second set of hands to pinch/swipe the touchscreen to rotate the camera while moving Lex around the battle and jumping or attacking, parts of the environment can block the view of enemies or your character.

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At various points in each level there are ATM-like stations that allow ether to be used to boost health, attack, and dodge attributes as well as unlock different weapons. Each time one of these stations is accessed, the ether can be assigned or removed from any of the previously allotted choices. This comes in handy, because if Lex takes too much damage and dies during a level players are offered a chance to revive for 1000 ether points or face restarting the level from the beginning.

Earlier I mentioned that Lex’s mission is to destroy three power cubes to restore order and balance between the warring Day and Night. I don’t normally spoil the end of games, but in this case I will. Athyr Above only includes content up to the first of three cubes. Leading to the destruction of the first cube, the final level is nothing more than Lex battling a giant baboon. That baboon of course is pissed as all hell at Lex because in between levels 8 and 9, Lex manages to cut off the King Kong sized baboon’s arm with an elevator. The final encounter is a bumbling mess of attempting to swat at the over-sized beast’s good arm or legs while avoiding being stomped on or picked up (having Lex’s head bitten off), and then slammed to the ground for an instant death. Remember those ether ATMs?  Well fortunately there is one right before the final encounter so you can easily turn off most specials and buy your way back into the game with full health while the baboon’s health stays at whatever level it had been reduced to.

Edge of Twilight definitely has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, Athyr Above is not the best game to offer a true initial insight into that world. Forcing a game of this pace and gameplay style onto a device that has no tactile feedback is just a waste of development resources in my opinion. No camera control. Poor animation cycles that can’t be interrupted. No fluid way to change directions to avoid being hit by an enemy. In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, the controls suck. If you value your iOS device and don’t want to throw it out of frustration because of the poor input design and response, save your money for what will hopefully be a better experience in future Edge of Twilight releases on platforms better suited to this type of game.  

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Beautiful opening cutscene
+ The music is pretty nice

Cons:
- Tap, hold, rub input mechanic is a horrible experience
- Combat animation is slow to respond to new inputs
- Gated combat is repetitive and dull
- Under utilized Day and Night power mechanics
- Pay to revive with in-game currency feels like necessary cheating

Game Info:
Platform: iOS
Publisher: Fuzzyeyes Entertainment
Developer: Fuzzyeyes Entertainment
Release Date: 3/28/2013 (Updated 7/14/2013)
Genre: Action/Adventure
Age Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.