Sometimes you can get really fooled by lite versions and that was the case for me when trying out the lite version of Caster. I played it for a couple of minutes, swore at not understanding what to do and removed it from my iPhone. Later I found Nigel’s first look where one of the developers states that Caster “makes playing a 3rd person game on the iPhone feel easy and natural even to novice players of 3rd person shooters.” After reading that I had to download the lite version again and have another go at it. Knowing what to expect I gave the tutorial some time to learn the controls and get a feel for the action during the level available. Graphics and sound are really top notch and I found myself enjoying the game fully. And then the short lite version was over and I had to know if the full version of Caster continues with the same high level of polish.
The story in Caster is a bit shallow and all you really get to know is that you are supposed to rescue the region of Middon from the Flanx infestation. Flanx is a name for a bunch of different insect like creatures. You get a mission director name Ahna who gives you a your objectives for each mission. There are 15 missions found in Caster and your objectives are limited to one of the following three: kill all Flanx, get all power orbs or restore life to a special tree.
The missions are short and each mission can be completed in less than five minutes if you just breeze trough not looking for all energy balls. There are three levels of difficulty to choose from ranging from casual to extreme. Finding energy balls and killing Flanx gives you credits you can use to upgrade your character. Speed, jump ability, shields and weapons are some of the things you can upgrade. I really like that aspect of the game and as you are able to replay levels to gain more credits the game gains some extra game life.
The controls found in Caster takes some time to get used to and even after several hours with the game I find myself frustrated at them at times. All movement is done by touching the left half of the screen and you look around using the right half. Shooting is done by double tapping on the rights side and dashing by double tapping on the left side. There is also a jump button in the bottom centre and a button to choose weapon at the bottom of the right side. I really like it that the developer has opted to not visible controls as you get to see more of the lush worlds. On the other hand there are times when I accidentally glide into the weapon and menu buttons when I am in the middle of some intense battle. This is annoying as it disturbs the flow of the game. The double tap to shoot can also be hard to combine with looking around on the same half of the screen. Most weapons are forgiving and lets you fire continuously giving you the opportunity to correct your aim. Those weapons you charge up are harder to use in battle as it is hard to aim when you also have to double tap to charge the weapon. Still I feel that these controls work better than I expected and I am impressed with the freedom of movement.
I also need to mention that this 3rd person shooter has some Populous styled mechanics with weapon that can terraform the landscapes by lowering or heightening the terrain. This comes in handy when you get to drown bugs in lava or when you need to create large boulders to reach higher grounds or raise unreachable orbs out of deep water. This further adds to the exploration aspect if you want to find all of the energy balls in a mission.
Caster looks great, sounds great and plays well and to sum it up I think the developer at Elecorn have succeeded quite well in their task of creating a great natural 3rd person shooter for the iPhone. And yes I say developer in singular form as Caster is more or less created by a single person, Mike D. Smith, a feat that is really impressive.
Presentation & Graphics
Outstanding graphics that flows smoothly with good explosions and weapon effects. Colourful and varied worlds reminding me somewhat of those found in the classic Magic Carpet from Bullfrog. Come to think of it a lot of this game seem to draw inspiration from that game which is a good thing indeed. Not all is good as I feel that the landscapes are too barren and lacking in detail and some of the Flanx feel uninspired.
I love the music, it really gets me pumped and ready to kill some Flanx. Techno music is not usually my cup of tea but in Caster it really works and it must work since the game won’t let me use my own music. The music is by Trance Emerson and at times I feel the game is worth $4.99 for the music alone.
Fun and immersive even though the story isn’t all that evolved I find myself looking forward to the next mission. Collecting credits to upgrade the character is also quite fun. Caster is one of the few games I have found myself compelled to play at work while trying to look busy. The controls take some time to get used to but they work quite well.
You can breeze through the casual and normal difficulties in a couple of hours and there are no achievements or unlockables other than those weapons you find and upgrade within the story itself. There is an extreme difficulty level as well for those who want a bit more play time. Shortening gamelife a bit is the fact that you can continue the level where you die at a loss of the credits collected so far.
Caster is one of those games I think every iPhone and iPod touch user should experience and I definately think that it is worth the current price of $4.99. It shows how fun and well produced a game can be for our nifty little device. Sadly it is over too soon and I hope for more missions in future updates.