Ark of Sinners (iOS) is a side-scrolling 2D platformer that reminds us of Castlevania, with its gothic themes, crisp graphics and simple combat system. You play as a girl called Celia, who wears a band-aid across her sizeable chest instead of a t-shirt. Celia is apparently hunting for her lost friend in a world filled with supernatural beasties and crumbling architecture, a simple story that’s set up through the slideshow cutscenes.
The world she’s trapped in is a beautiful ruin, filled with desiccated mansions, enormous castles and ominous medieval cityscapes, and occasionally we paused simply to admire the detail that went into crafting the intricate backgrounds. Checking out the scenery is also a good way to regain your breath from the frequent and frantic tap-fest battles.
You control Celia using on-screen buttons, and there are a fair few cluttering the screen. You can run left and right, slide left and right, jump, perform a swift slash attack, and finally kick some serious monster arse with a mighty jump/slash power attack. Ark of Sinners' battles often throw a number of gribblies at you at once, and in the heat of the moment we occasionally tapped the wrong button and ended up leaping right into the claws of a demon. Still, the more we played, the more accustomed to the fiddly buttons we became, which helped out when trying to bash out a particularly tricky combo attack.
Gameplay consists mostly of running left or right, jumping over pits or onto platforms, and slicing up anything that gets in your way. Like Castlevania, you’ll also have the occasional boss fight to contend with. Sadly there are few memorable bosses, with the kind of ridiculous scale you face in Konami’s franchise, but they provide a welcome relief from a relentless tide of minions. The levels themselves are sprawling, and the map is only partially useful, so be prepared to get lost on occasion.
You’ll also have to upgrade Celia’s skills along the way, to take on the serious challenges of later stages – everything from increasing her health and damage to learning brand new combo attacks. Some pretty nifty powers are thrown your way, including the ability to damage all on-screen enemies (mighty handy when you’re surrounded by ravenous beasties intent on digesting your face).
While Ark of Sinners can be quite frustrating at times, due to its difficulty and occasionally fiddly controls, it’s also a strangely addictive slice of 2D side-scrolling action that you can’t help but admire, and that should keep you occupied for many, many hours.