The blueprint io is based on sounds really great. Side scrolling 3d shooter – check. Elements of stealth and intriguing story – check. It’s also published by Chillingo, who put out great games such as iDracula and Vector Tanks on our small screens, and should have the means to translate the blueprint into an iPhone classic. So how well does io fare?
Not very well… scratch that as the biggest understatement from me so far… this is really a poorly executed game. Nothing works as it should. Graphics are blocky, dark and bland. Sound is truly poor with a broken sound when your character moves about. Controls are the worst I have encountered on the iPhone so far with a stupendously small and imprecise cursor control, and even worse aiming by touching the screen.
The story is as follows – as far as I know – our generic hero Norton goes to a space ship called Nautilus to reclaim it from a horde of robots. That’s it! Not really intriguing or gripping.
Presentation & Graphics
The story is just text messages during the slow loading screen when you start a level. Graphics in the game are really not up to par. First of all, the gameplay area is about one third of the screen, while the top third is used for the different weapons and stimpaks used by Norton, and the bottom third is used for the movement cursor, jump and crouch/run buttons. The actual gameplay area is filled with generic and uninspired textures, and even when trying to get it to feel like a 3d side-scroller it fails. You can move Norton in and out of the gameplay area and you can hide in darker areas of the levels, but so far I haven’t had any practical use of it. Moving around in the false 3d side scrolling perspective is really hard and I have had trouble picking stuff up and I have fallen down holes I couldn’t see.
When shooting, the muzzle flashes from Norton’s gun, but seeing where you are hitting is hard. The enemy robots have a life bar that drops, but other than that I can’t see whether I hit or not as there is no animation. Or is there? As you put your big fat finger where you want to shoot you block any chance of seeing the enemy and considering you have already two thirds of darkness on screen you don’t get much screen left to see when shooting. When you touch Norton you get to see his life bar and the caption Norton on screen, if you then touch any of your inventory on the top third a caption will show up saying for example “stimpack yet to acquire” jumbled in the same place where it says Norton and the life bar is showing. Attention to detail is low.
There is supposed to be music in this game, where is it? You can turn it off in the menu but I can’t hear any, strange! The weapon sounds are ok but man, oh man… Is Norton a heavy dude or does he have strange metallic step shoes? The broken sound effect you hear when he moves is truly grating and it is even heard when he is moving crouched at a slow pace. The enemies also sound heavy and the movement sounds really annoy the heck out of me. There is also some ambiance that is ok, giving a bit of space station feeling.
The controls are truly horrendous and I can’t fathom this wasn’t remedied during beta testing. The control cursors are small, and often I find myself pressing both the ‘right’ and ‘down’ button at once. Worse than that is that you shoot where you put your finger on screen and then you obviously block the enemy you try to aim at. Far too often the enemy ran out from under my finger and all of a sudden I couldn’t tell the difference between Norton and the enemy as both are just as generic. This most often leads to the game over screen and at occasion the enemy has tried to escape and then it is easy to just run after them and shoot them in the back as they no longer tries to defend themselves. Having all the buttons and inventory taking two thirds of the screen prevents me from getting into this game as I am constantly reminded of the fact that it is just a game. I have also had trouble with the up direction on the control pad because it is too close to the game play area, and so I tend to run up and shoot at the same time.
I don’t really know whether you get to continue after you die or not as the game has handled this differently when I have played it. The first time I reached level two and died I could restart at level two. The second time I reached level two and died I had to restart from level one. Having the tutorial messages once more on level one isn’t any fun at all and should only be shown when you play it the first time. It is a hard game but not because of strong enemies or clever puzzler but rather because broken controls and visual limitations with just one third of the screen as game play area. I can’t confirm whether it clocks in under one hour as is mentioned by Nigel in the news story found here or in the information found on iTunes but if it lacks a working save feature it may still give you ample time to feel frustrated.
When I first heard of this game I thought that this could be something of a combination of the great controls, sound, graphics and action of iDracula with an interesting story set in space. Sadly none of my expectations where met and I can not recommend this to anyone in it’s current form, and I have to be honest and say that the developer will have a hard time fixing it without going back to square one. I would not even recommend this if it was free. I had high hopes for io but sadly somewhere, something went horribly wrong from blueprint to finished game.