Taking its cue from those arcade video games from the '80s and '90s, Third Blade modernizes the approach for the App Store audience to great effect. Built on classic mechanics and featuring plenty of weapon upgrades, enemy stomping and combos, Third Blade is both intrinsically pleasing as far as game design goes and slightly frustrating due to its still-not-updated graphics, suspect Free/Paid model and garbled story.
The game is simple enough. Cut scenes feature animated characters decked out in weaponry traversing the world, fighting off worm-like creatures. The game itself is a classic side-scrolling beat-em up. You tap the fight button constantly while maneuvering your character around the screen, racking up combo points and gathering coins. Each enemy takes an almost interminable number of hits to kill, but the payoff is almost always worth it, and the number of weapons upgrades and skill masteries is comparable to a full-retail game. The game is available in a free version, though the upgrade to Paid is recommended for the added features and gold. Simply put, you're not getting the full experience when you play for free -- think of it more as a demo than a free alternative.
Fortunately, for anyone that enjoys classic side-scrollers with modern perks and animated character cut-scenes, Third Blade is a winner. With the exception of some questionable design decisions later in the game and the fact that, at least on the iPad, it has still not been updated for the retina display, Third Blade is a fantastic game. For those that want a quick fix, it is easy to pick up and play for a few minutes. For those who invest the hours it will take to beat this game, they'll have new content and features to return to for weeks to come.