Review by Nigel Wood
The iPhone doesn’t have may action/adventure games that make the most of the control scheme. There are many unique puzzle games out there that require you to shake, tilt, tap or touch your way to victory… but not in the action and adventure genre. Star wars and Kroll had a go, but it is Toy bot diaries that is so far the only true ‘built from the ground up’ game that uses the iphone’s abilities in a unique and interesting way. Well, now Asterope is here to infiltrate that small group.
Created by Finnish games designer Niklas Wahrman, Asterope is a sci-fi action adventure game in which you must travel into an asteroid to save the crew of a lost shuttle. This shuttle was sent to the asteroid on a previous and failed mission to intercept it before crashing into earth. The game presents a hollowed out side view of the asteroid, with your ship at the centre of the screen. You must make your way through the cavernous asteroid to the level exit, which is marked on your map, while collecting the stranded space men.
Your ship travels at a constant speed, with the option to speed up using the boost button. However, unlike most space cave-style games you don’t have direct control over your ships navigation. Instead you must strategically anchor your ship to walls of the asteroid using your “Asterope” (space grappling-cable) which causes your ship to swing round the anchor point. This is done simply by tapping on the screen where you would like to fix the rope. The developer claims these controls are intuitive, which is not really the case. Intuitive controls would be to touch left to turn left, and touch right to turn right. However, don’t get me wrong, this is not a dig at the controls but instead at the use of words, for the controls in this game are what make it fun and challenging at the same time.
When you crash you lose one of your three lives, lose all three and you will need to start that level from the beginning. And crash you will, as for the first level or so, it will take you a bit of practice before you can confidently swing your ship through the caverns. There are ten levels in the main story mode, and by level 5 you should be a dab hand, that is until the controls get switched on level 6 causing you to relearn what you have learned. From here each level gets progressively larger, with more astronauts to rescue. And on top of that the main enemy of the piece is revealed, and begin bombarding you with their course-altering laser guns. You begin to plan your moves more carefully, and I found that some levels I would restart if I even lost one life, knowing that I would need my quota to progress.
After level ten it’s all over, leaving you with an empty feeling like you have only just got into it. Thankfully there are also various arcade levels to play which are unlocked through play of the main game. These are points and time based games such as a race mode, and star collection. They are not as fun as the main game, but do add replay-ability to Asterope once the main story mode is complete.
The presentation of the game is nicely done, and follows a hand drawn cartoon style. And as I mentioned previously in an Asterope preview article, this style is reminiscent of Namco games like Dig Dug and Mr Driller, with thick edges and bright block colours. Animation is limited to the movement of the ship and the Asterope, with only static character art in the cut scenes, but overall the game looks polished and works well with the story and gameplay. The games’ interface could do with a little facelift, as right now it uses the iphone interface. It would be nice to skin it to fit with the hand drawn, cartoon style of the rest of the game.
I really like the music in Asterope, it has a relaxing ethereal space vibe to it, and what sound there is is done well too, including a satisfying clunk as your asterope shoots out and grips the asteroid walls.
Overall, it’s a very nicely conceived game with some great gameplay ideas and controls. For $3.99 it’s a little short, but the experience is worth the price of admission, and you can think of it as an investment for more great future games by Niklas.
Presentation & Graphics: 7 (Good)
Good looking cartoon style, bright and clean on the iPhone screen!
Sound: 8 (Great)
Great music, which you could easily chill out to, and the sound effects are fun.
Gameplay: 9 (Un-missable)
The controls take some getting used to, but once you do… the asterope feels great and challenges you more and more as you progress.
Game life: 5 (Just good enough to be acceptable)
At 10 levels, it’s short. There’s the arcade modes to hold your attention for a while, but ultimately it’s more story levels we want.
Game rating: 8 (Great)
Niklas has created a fun and challenging game with Asterope, it’s over too quickly but that is a testament to it’s gameplay, which makes you crave more. Hopefully, more levels or a fleshed out sequel will be released in the non-to-distant future. The game is available now for $3.99 (£2.39) here.