Reviews

Underground review

Is this ‘too cool for school’ shooter all style and no substance? Read on to find out.

We previewed this game way back, before it was picked up by Chillingo for distribution. It’s unique style attracted both the team here at TouchGen and many readers. It wasn’t immediately clear though exactly what the core game would entail. Well, now we have our hands on the final release build and we are still a little unsure of it’s intensions!

underground03The game is set in the underground tube system. Your viewpoint is of the inside of a tube train looking out of the window as you journey on a surreal trip through a graffiti artists imagination, as he gazes into the dark and contemplates his life which is haunted by a dark past. The story unfolds in the underground stations… you can see people dashing about from your window seat before the train pulls away and the game takes its true form.

The viewpoint pans out to the outside of the train, where a spray-can morphs into a fighter craft and the action begins. From here strange, 2D illustrated, graffiti characters appear, such as severed heads, bouncing squirrels, man-headed fish creatures, and various cyber punk bits of tech. These all exhibit different patterns of movement and weapons… which get more intricate and deadly as you progress. Some can be taken down with one hit, while others take a few more… while some send out bullets as they explode as a last ditch attempt to take you down. To help you, various power-ups can be collected, which alter your weapons from single firing bullets, to lasers, rockets, sound waves and the like. Most of these fire in a straight line, but some power-ups allow for multi-directional firing, as well as slowing down time, and giving you temporary shields.

underground08You control your craft in one of two ways, either by tilt or by touch. Tilt controls your movement, and your weapons auto fire… you can also tap to change the angle of fire. The touch controls though are my favourite, as they feel more responsive for a shooter that requires precision. With this set up you simply drag where you want your ship to go, and again tap where you want the auto fire to shoot. You can drag anywhere to move your ship, which is good and more importantly stops you covering your ship with your finger and missing on-coming enemies and bullets.

As well as the wild and wonderful enemies, which vary each level, there are also large tags of graffiti on the side of the train which act as a barriers, you must avoid them so as not to crash. Each level culminates in a boss battle, usually one or two ships that take a certain amount of damage and exhibit less obvious flight patterns, before you can take them out and move on. After that, the train pulls into the next station where more of the story unfolds.

underground10 These story moments, featuring great models, animation and texturing, are no doubt the most interesting part of the game… and they keep you playing on. But, with all the art stripped back, this is just another shooter. It’s a solid one to be sure, but apart from the style, it does nothing groundbreaking. The visuals are the real draw here, but I can’t help thinking that they could be put to greater use in a more fitting game, such as a point and click adventure with touchscreen graffiti and tagging elements.

Presentation & graphics
4pt5-stars_sm

The whole game looks fantastic, from the menus to the beautiful station and tube train models, the spooky story elements, and the quirky 2D shooter artstyle. It features art from real graffiti artists.

Sound
4-stars_sm

Features a great hip-hop style soundtrack, as well as great environmental effects.

Gameplay
3-stars_sm

Cool artstyle aside, this is a solid shooter. It’s a little easy on the difficulty, no R-type frustration here… but it’s fun to play and the varied enemies and powerups available keep things fresh.

Gamelife
2pt5-stars_sm

There are branching paths available in the story, allowing you to change trains. So there is some replay value there. But no online scoring or bonus modes make this more of a shooter adventure than a quick and furious arcade shooter, so once completed your interest may wane.

Overall
3pt5-stars

Underground is certainly original visually, and it is fun … but right now the crown for quirky shooters sits comfortably on the head of Space Invaders Infinity Gene. Underground is out now for $3.99

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