Since Christmas is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d treat you to a story around the fireplace with a mug of eggnog. Fill up your cups, grab your warm scarves, and gather round for a heart-warming tale of festive joy.
There once was a man named Kraine Severe. Kraine was by all accounts, an average guy – like most folks, he enjoyed reading, watching movies and a good meal. There were only two things which made him stand out from the crowd: he had a name which would make a great aka for a wrestler, and he was able to transform himself into a hurricane.
On review, it’s fair to say Kraine wasn’t that average after all. It’s also fair to say this opening has nothing to do with Christmas.
Dr. Osvald Pernicious, Leader of the Doom Legion, has been conducting mad experiments on poor Mr Severe, who has managed to escape Percnicious’s laboratory, discovering he can now turn himself into a mighty hurricane whenever he wants. Now that’s what I call a proper set up for a game. On a side note, is Percnicious’s even a word? Who knows? Who cares?
So to say Kraine is an angry man is an understatement. And now he’s off to exact revenge on the Doom Legion by levelling everything in his path. I have to be honest here, if someone had inadvertently given me the power to turn into a storm when I got bored, I’d send them a thank you card and a box of Cadbury’s Roses. But I suppose ‘Kevin’s Choco Thank You’ wouldn’t make for a particularly exciting game (although having said that, ‘Kevin’s Choco Thank You’ is a title that wouldn’t look at all out of place in today’s ‘eclectic’ AppStore. I might have to approach an indie developer about that one.)
Ok, I’m actually going to review this game now, I promise. This is an old school bullet hell shooter with a twist. Literally. Instead of you attempting to negotiate the avalanche of bullets thrown at you with your own weapon, you ARE the weapon. As soon as Kraine gets close enough to one of the many gun turrets, tanks or helicopters attempting to blast him away, his whirlwind force field will destroy them. They’re even polite enough to stop firing while you rip them to shreds. The other enemies still lob hot metal your way though, and this is where the challenge lies.
At any one time, Kraine Severe’s head will be a magnet to approximately 745 projectiles (I’m a fast counter). Thankfully controlling him is probably the easiest thing I’ve had to do since owning my iPhone, and that includes answering calls. Simply swipe your thumb in a chosen direction, and Kraine The Hurricane will move there. Infinitely easier than working out how to pick up a call from your mum.
In order to lay waste to your attackers, you’ve got to spend precious seconds wearing down their defences, but even if those in your immediate vicinity stop firing at this point, other enemies halfway up the screen continue to shower you with bullets, setting up some frantic and tense risk/ reward scenarios as you attempt to finish off the current enemy while dodging bullets from the other, knowing the next hit will end your career as a circus freak and dump you back at the beginning of the level. Oh yes, no matter where you are, it’s back to the start if you die. Merciless is how I like my old school games.
And speaking of Ming (Google it), there’s also a second difficulty level appropriately entitled ‘Hell Mode’, where enemies don’t stop shooting when you’re attacking them. I have no idea why anyone would want to subject themselves to such torture. I got the shock of my life when I gave it a go and backed out immediately. Not for the faint fingered.
To balance out the difficulty, all downed enemies release orbs that either replenish your health slightly, or fill up your Fury Meter, which when full, deals out double damage to those dastardly drones. I love a good bit of alliteration at Christmas. You’re also provided with debris from smashed buildings which act as a partial shield from enemy bullets, and a number of power-ups such as lightning, which damages every enemy on screen, or the hourglass, which slows down time, allowing you to attack for longer. The obligatory in-game store allows you to purchase extra lives and a range of other power-ups from, although some can only be used in Hell Mode. Dammit!
It’s all about the efficient dispatch of foes. Take them down 2-3 at once and pick the right moment to unleash your power-ups, hoping that the building you’re trying to topple will collapse in time and reward you with an important health boost, all while manoeuvring round a storm of angry lead. It’s addictively frustrating and death is always met with thoughts jumping straight back in. Perhaps if you’d taken down that tank earlier you would’ve got a little further. Maybe if you’d destroyed the turret instead of taking on the helicopter you would’ve won. These are problems I face every day on my way to work.
With this being a top-down 2D look which whisks you back to the glory days of the Super NES and Megadrive, it’s a shame the number of environments is so small because the artwork is pretty to look at. Especially the monstrous boss battles. You’ll be spending so much time getting gunned down in each level that a change of scenery would act as it’s own reward once you finally complete it. Unfortunately there are only three to speak of here, which feels like a missed opportunity. The soundtrack is also suitably retro with over-the-top rock 90’s arcade rock music, which can never be frowned at if you were a teenager at any point in the last decade. Hold on, I’m talking about the 90’s. We’re in 2011 aren’t we? How old am I? I think I need to lie down.
Act of Fury is a perfect fit for the iPhone; it’s uncomplicated, good looking, and probably the easiest game to pick up and play that I’ve, er…picked up and played. It’s also cruel, frustrating, and at times you’ll swear it’s just being unfair. The end result is one of those games that will make you miss your stop on the Tube and have you taking frequent toilet breaks at the office (although that could just be your weak bladder. You really must get that seen to). It also frequently causes you to utter the three magic words of iOS gaming: One. More. Go.