Whenever I go weary about the state of new games released on the App Store a game shows up by Llamasoft or Justin Smith to boost my interest again. The mind behind Llamasoft, Jeff Minter, is an industry veteran who never sacrifices playability in his games. And the most playable satisfying experience I have encountered is Caverns of Minos. Part Lunar Lander, part Space Invaders and massive scoops of Llamasoft madness makes for something pretty special.
I asked Jeff Minter what inspires him to create the worlds seen in his games, and got the following reply:
“as for the game worlds, they are inspired by all kinds of things, games I’ve enjoyed in the past mainly in the Minotaur Project releases, but mixed in with anything that interests me, and always some minotaurs and sheep .”
This to me is the key to the games, as Jeff has himself as a source instead of trying to find the next Angry Birds, Cut the Rope or Zombie game. When creative people are creative within their own zone magic happens.
Caverns of Minos has you controlling your craft on a mission from the great Mothersheep in the sky. You have to travel to the very depths of the caverns to fetch whatever item the Mothersheep craves. Be it a bit of cheese, 50p or something else quite ludicrous you of course oblige. The controls are fresh, and completely unique. You steer sideways by swiping left and right in the lower left corner of the screen. The engine is controlled by holding/tapping the upper right corner. The ship also fires in different directions depending on what level of difficulty you play on. To aim you tilt your device. Most of the time I found it quicker to just move my ship instead of trying to aim, but at times you have to shoot enemies staying near a cliff or edge. To control properly you need to use two hands on both the iPad and the iPhone. This is perhaps the only drawback, as I really like one handed controls for casual games. Then on the other hand this might not be a casual game for long.
Shooting fuel tanks replenishes fuel, and there are hearts to fill up health. Spotted across the levels there are minotaurs that give a lot of points, and fill up both a bit of health and fuel. Travelling downwards in the caverns is quite easy, and if you take it slow all minotaurs can be picked up. Escaping the caverns is harder, as all hell breaks lose once you have picked up the coveted item. Space invaders, missiles and strange asteroids do their darndest to kill you. Fuel is also a factor, and you often have to refuel and pick up any remaining minotaurs on the way up.
There are 21 caverns to travel down, and you have only a handful of lives to do so. With four levels of difficulty this soon turns into a hardcore game. I have actually started to dream about goats, and minotaurs once again. It happened after playing way too much Goat-Up.
The presentation is wacky, weird and highly psychadelic. Colors merge, fade, sizzle and explode all over the screen when it gets hectic. Paired with an array of excellent, and at times funny sound effects it soon transforms your world into bliss. Especially the sheeplike baah baah alarm when you are low on health makes me giggle inside. I have never done drugs, but I really hope this is the effect. And if so, there is no need for drugs. Just plug in a set of headphones, and sit back with your iPad or iPhone and play. The one thing I miss is a proper soundtrack. You can have your own music in the background, and keep the sound effects though.
Caverns of Minos is a highly playable, funny take on Lunar Lander and chopper rescue games from the past. The brilliant, and unique controls paired with a visual flurry of sensations the game is hard to stop playing. Get Caverns of Minos, dim the lights, put headphones on and go crazy.
Caverns of Minos $1.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Llamasoft Ltd