Soul Trapper: Episode 1 by Realtime Associates is a unique game on the iPhone. Almost completely audio based, the game is best described as an interactive novel. You play as Kane Price, a bit of a loser who has inherited a machine from his dead/ or missing father. The machine is called the Soul Trap, and with the help from a friend of your fathers, you take on the roll of both Ghost buster and Detective in this action thriller. The soul trap is a machine that is capable of catching ghosts, or spirits. Once captured you can enter the trap to question the captured ghoul in an interrogation style room, which will reveal clues for story progression.
I mentioned ‘play as Kane’ loosely, as most of your time is spent taking a back seat to take in the story. However, now and again you are required to interact with the screen for the story to progress. The majority of these tasks involve directing Kane through his environments, plus the odd battle or soul trapping where you must control Kane’s attacks by listening for audio queues. One task that I found a little repetitive is when you enter the soul trap. You must match your tapping of a heart icon with the sound of your heart beat, and while it’s OK the first few times, it gets a bit weary towards the end of the game.
Another problem I had with the interactive elements were, apart from a few action scenes, I never really felt that my actions were changing the outcome of the story. I haven’t played it through more than once, but I’m pretty sure that there isn’t one situation where an action will result in a story shift or alternate ending. For instance, you have questions that you can select for your character to say to other characters, but only in the order in which you say them. I would like to see, to some degree, in the next episode of story, that my actions will make a difference or at least result in loss of life so that I have to re-play a chapter again until I get it right.
So, with the game lacking in the game department why should you play it at all? Well luckily the story is really good, especially about 2/3rds in and onwards. It sounds like a radio drama from the 40′s (I’m not that old, but I’ve heard some archive recordings on the web). I’m not going to go into details as that would ruin it for you, but the story is a solid one, with gripping and chilling moments, plus the odd plot twist. There are some images displayed on screen to set the scene, but apart from that the story relies purely on the voice work and sound effects. I’ll be honest and say that the voice work is cheesy as hell, I’m not sure if the developer intended it to be that way, but at times it’s truly awful dialogue. However, this is exactly why I enjoyed it so much. It’s almost B-move or even porno style acting. Kayne’s overall performance is ok, but at times he says some surf dude style modern slang which sounds out of place, and more like a father trying to be cool when talking to his son. Phrases like ‘she’s smokin’ and ‘I’m pumped’, it’s all a bit 80′s cool at times. But, as I said, I think I enjoyed it more because of this, and found it humorous more than annoying.
The sound effects are where the game really shines. The use of stereo is fantastic and really make you feel you are there with Kane. Most of the interaction relies on the stereo, for example a sword fight towards the end of the game, where you need to know where the attack is coming from in order to counter it. Because of these stereo moments the use of headphones is a must!
Overall Soul Trapper is an enjoyable romp, and perfect companion for travelling on the train or on a plane journey. There are just about enough interactive action moments to classify this as a game, but be warned that it is truly linear. $6.99 per episode might seem a little expensive for some. Especially if Realtime Associates release 10 or more.
Presentation & Graphics:
There’s not a ton going on graphics-wise, but the illustrations that accompany each chapter look good, and menu and icons work well. I’d like to see more done with the on screen maps, as now they are very basic.
Full voice work with some talented, if a tad B-movie, acting. However it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The sound effects, music and stereo work are incredibly well done though and for that Sound scores highly.
Some of the mini game style interaction sequences work well, but some are repetitive. And at times your fingers are idle for long periods.
With it’s linear story, you won’t want to replay this game