Not to worry folks, One Epic Game is the title of a new platformer from Chillingo, I’m not going to bore you with a 65,000 word review that would take you several days to read. That’s for next week.
Now, I’m known as a bit of a maverick at the TouchGen Offices. I cause all sorts of trouble; the rest of the staff are always complaining I don’t play by the rules. Nigel says we can only have one hour for lunch, I take one hour three minutes; His dress code: office smart. My dress code: top shirt button undone. I’ve even been known to bring him his afternoon tea with SKIMMED MILK. WHAT’CHA GONNA DO ABOUT IT NIGE? I’m such a loose cannon.
And because I’m such a complete nonconformist, I’m going to do something that’s never been done before in the world of game reviewing. I’m going to begin my review of Chillingo’s latest title not by focusing on graphics, sound or any of the other, but with a few lines of the game’s dialogue:
EVIL BOSS: You’re going to pay for this!
OUR HERO: I’ve already paid for this game, and I am not paying anything more unless I get some bonus content!
OUR HERO: Ok, I get it, you’re the boss. What do you want? Money? Fame? Women? Men?
EVIL BOSS: I want to rule the world!
OUR HERO: How original.
EVIL BOSS: I want to destroy the world!
OUR HERO: Zzzz…did you say something?
EVIL BOSS: I want to kill all the gamers in the world!
OUR HERO: I think the lack of physical exercise is doing that already.
And that’s just the opening two levels; it’s a very humorous parody of videogame culture. I’ll come to the all important stuff (like, you know, the actual game) in a minute, but It’s rare that any game makes me chuckle as much as this. Some of the one-liners are truly clever. It’s the Skynet of iOS games; totally self aware. Yeah it’s true that casual gamers might not get the in-jokes, but that’s precisely why it’s so funny.
Ok, enough of the fawning over the script. After all, if you wanted to stare at your phone and laugh, you’d have bought a Blackberry. Do Research In Motion read these reviews?
One Epic Game is a side-scrolling auto-runner. You play the part of Alpha Dog, a pumped up action hero whose mission is to blast his way through hordes of zombies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland controlled by an evil genius with a bit of world war two thrown in for good measure; basically every game cliche that exists. A fact Alpha Dog himself readily admits when he laments ‘Why does every single action game have to have zombies in it?!’ I hear you brother.
You control Alpha Dog across a number of levels each with the same basic template: left to right scrolling, jump over precarious gaps in the scenery by tapping on the left hand side of the screen, shoot zombies, soldiers and other assorted enemies by tapping on the right hand side. Build up point bonuses for kills without dying. Its easy to pick up, heck, a monkey could do it. And I should know, I have a pet monkey and he managed to complete the game before I did.
So there’s little in the way of variety where level structure is concerned, and this might initially put you off the way a fat girl with braces might put you off on a blind date (unless you really were blind, but whatever), but as you’ll discover after a few stages, there is some variety involved. The early levels are simple run and gun affairs, but later ones introduce challenges such as running for 800m or completing the level with only one life.
Easy enough, you may think, but one of the curious points is the effect the different power-ups and weapons have on your character. There are seven different weapons ranging from a simple pistol to the BFG – hello Doom – and you’re actively encouraged not to pick up every one of them as they randomly appear.
You’d think any self-respecting game would encourage you to stack as many weapons as possible and tell everyone to get the hell out the way. I know my local self-defence class does. But even though they’re all one-shot kill, because each weapon has slightly different range, the difference between killing one enemy at a time with a shotgun, and three at once with a laser could mean the difference between making it to one of the very rare checkpoints and colliding with a zombie and dying. Certainly something to think about if you’ve only got one life left.
Power-ups are similar. When you’re racing through a level in a rhythmic trance of gap jumping and enemy slaying, wouldn’t collecting the arrow power-up which increases your speed wreck your timing? Do you really need the Jet-Pack that allows you to fly, but makes it hard to see where you can land, potentially leading you to a death drop? I know everyone loves Jet-Packs, but sometimes they can run out of fuel and make you fall into a canyon. A bit like my 1998 Nissan Micra.
What also makes the challenges especially interesting is that the level configurations change each time you restart. So there’s no memorising enemy patterns or jump locations, you’re literally playing a different stage each time. At one point you’re charged with collecting 150,000 points. One go round you could kill six enemies and collect three bonus point power-ups in what seems like less than five seconds. Another time the game will relentlessly throw precipice after precipice for you to jump before you’ve got your first thousand points on the board. This unpredictability definitely helps to keep things fresh. Something I really should try with my underwear.
To round things off, there’s a free run mode which is basically an endless version of the levels you’ve completed in story mode. The aim here is to build up your high score running through an infinite variant of each level. Unfortunately there’s no Gamecenter support which would’ve made sense for a mode like this. It does jibe with Crystal though, so I suppose that’s something.
It’s 16-bit era pixelation where the graphics are concerned. They’re bold enough, but if complex animation is your thing, look away now, there’s literally only one for the main character. The title music certainly suggests something epic to follow (and might even be too grand for the type of game this is), but the in-game ditty is a generic rock riff that could double for a hundred WWE wrestler entrance themes. The sound effects are only perfunctory.
There’s also a slight lack of polish in the presentation (that’s polish like you’d do to your wooden table, not polish like Kraków). As funny as the script is, it’s littered with grammatical errors and stilted English (‘That does not give any sense nutritionally’. Uhm, what?) There are also hints that appear between levels, but they tend to disappear too quickly for you to read.
There’s a thin line between challenging and frustrating. Epic Game avoids being an Epic Fail because even though it may seem a little too hard at times, you’ll be back to conquer it after you’ve sellotaped your hair back to your scalp (because you tore it out, see?) It’s not exactly as epic as it wants to be, but perhaps the title is part of the irony. As I’ve previously mentioned, It seems to be pretty good at that.
One Epic Game is out now for iPhone and iPod Touch for $0.99. Get it on the
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