Thursday, 31 March 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space iPhone App

While my Dead Space 2 disc sorts itself out and inbetween Homefront, Crysis 2 and trying to complete Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, I've managed to fit in time on my daily commute to do the odd bit of Dead Space on my iPhone - but is it any good?

Playing games on the iPhone differ in quality. If it's something as simple as Angry Birds or Tiny Wings, it usually fares better; but when there are slidy controls, a weird 'two-button' system that hardly ever works and it's trying to be like a PSP - that's usually where it fails. Which is what makes Dead Space so interesting. Having been catered for the huge iPhone and iPad market, the guys at EA have made a rather small but perfectly formed bit of fun that will keep Deadites like myself going.

Will it ruin either Dead Space 1 or 2? No. It's a stand-alone game that, as far as I can tell, has no real bearing to the main storyline. You play someone who looks like Isaac Clarke but isn't, instead you're trying to get about some business and then all hell breaks loose. There is a bit of a plot to it, but without ruining anything, it's nothing that will make you remember it for years to come. Instead, the game relies on the fact that it's fun to play and a bit different from other games on the same platform.

Firstly, what you'll notice is the graphics have done the best with what they've got and it's quite impressive. The world you're in feels large yet keeps that claustrophobic feeling that made the original so unique. They've turned a problem into a creative solution. There are different types of enemies, you have different guns and suits, all of which can be upgraded and you can jump around in Zero-G - it's very much the bare bones of Dead Space, which isn't a bad thing.

What impresses the most is the control system works quite well. The left hand side of the screen is to move and the right hand side to look around, much like two conventional joysticks - then you tap to aim and tap again to shoot. You still have your status effect and can reload when you like and change your weapon mid-battle. It's clearly been thought out and, even though it can be fiddly, it's actually fairly easy to play. But then, that's another problem ...

There wasn't that many times where I thought I would die. The last boss for example I did first time and without much difficulty, the reason being is that you're health automatically recharges so if you run around for long enough, you're health will be full - a tactic I used many a time. You just have to make sure you don't get stuck! If you're out of ammo you can use your status to slow them down and chop away - repeat until completion. Therefore, it's not going to frustrate you too much unless it's a bug, and I did come across a few. There were times that you can't progress until you've killed all the monsters around - a "lockdown" situation - but sometimes you have killed them all, and you still can't progress meaning you have to restart from an earlier checkpoint. Very frustrating. I also ran into a fair bit of lag which made the game unplayable at times, but when I returned to it, it was fine.

The game itself wasn't terrifying but had some great trippy moments. There were a few good jumps and slowly losing your mind is actually quite fun. I had to say that it was fairly short though, app. 4 hours, but then I didn't know what to expect. It kept me entertained on a lot of long commutes and sometimes made them longer by making me miss my stop! It's not exactly pick up and play, but it does autosave enough for it not to be much of an issue if you only want to play it for five minutes or so.

Overall, for an iPhone game it's one of the best out there and definitely the most forward-thinking in terms of the format being a respectable gaming platform, so I'll mark it in context of that, but it falls short on a few elements and really felt more like a stop-gap rather than an amazing game in it's own right. It did extremely well for what it was, but then at the end of the day, it's still a game I was playing on my phone. Worth the money, but nothing essential.

Rating: 7/10

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