Underground for iPhone / iTouch ReviewSeptember 19, 2009
So I get this Email from an associate from Chillingo Ltd. asking if I was interested in reviewing a copy of there newest game that was just released in the App Store called “Underground”. Chillingo has published a large number of games in the App Store already, most of which are pretty good games. Such as Touch KO (Which, I reviewed a couple months back.) Zen Bound, another well received game. MiniGore, Bike or Die. and many others. So I reply “Well of COURSE sweet cheeks! send that code on over.” (didn’t say that last part, but free stuff makes me all giddy.) So, they sent me along a free code, and I get tah playing!!
1st off, a quick description. It’s a Rail shooter in the same vein as LifeForce, Raiden, and the likes. But with a new twist on the style. the Music is all DJ work composed by Pp3D, and it features Graffiti by the artist “Frames”.
Did I sell out?.
Is this any good?.
Should I have the Corned beef on Rye or Wheat Bread?
This is a side scrolling rail shooter game that is controlled by tilting the iPhone initially, or it can be changed to be controlled by touching and sliding your finger along to control the “ship”. either method is effective. personally, even though the touch method was far more responsive. It meant having an extra finger on the screen and possibly blocking the view of incoming enemies or enemy fire. I say extra finger, because along with moving the ship, you have the ability to shoot in a different directions by touching the screen in the direction you want to fire in. This adds a bit of flexibility to the rail shooting style of old, in which you really didn’t have that option. you had to shoot in the direction you where going. Using the Tilt method of controlling the ship can be adjusted by sensitivity and calibrated. Tilting the device to control is a little slower than using the touchscreen, but doesn’t hinder the game.
This game actually has a STORY!.. yeah, a side scrolling shooter, based around hip hop music and graffiti and there is a story. and guess what. when it’s all being played out, it kind of makes sense. when I was first told about the game, it just seemed like an interesting mashup of different styles. but once in the game, it flows together nicely. I am not sure if this is how it’s suppose to be perceived, but this is what I think:
The game starts with You. Just a guy getting on a subway train talking to himself. I really don’t want to give away too much in turns of story elements, so I’ll be vague but try to explain. So, as the train gets going. You see the subway walls fly passed the window as you’re looking out, it blurs along. and you see another train riding along side you going just a little slower than the train your on. you spot some graffiti on the side of the train in the shape of a rattle-can and, at this point, your characters mind just drifts and his imagination kicks up while he is day dreaming. The spray can turns into a little fighter ship, and you begin shooting some crazy enemies that fly across the screen. Such as flying gasmasks, ball gagged businessmen, bleeding bunny heads. Just a slew of really random, graffiti elements. the “terrain” even changes. even though it’s the side of a passing train, there will be large murals painted on the side, and you’ll have to dodge these or you’ll blow up.
It’s all very unique and works quite well in terms of telling a story. Now, is that story any good?. For the most part, yeah. it does a pretty good job of drawing you into the mystery that is unfolding. Some of the writing might be a little “hand-holdish” in that it tries to push you to think about stuff without actually setting something’s up. But I’m not going to fault an iPhone game for not having Oscar caliber writing. No matter what. the Story isn’t bad. and ends on a shocking note.
Overall gameplay teeters on repetitive. But saves itself from being boring by introducing new elements at just the right times. Like new weapons, new enemies, slightly harder course navigation. In the end though, more weapons would have been nice, and different stage ending bosses. There are only 3 variations spanning the multiple levels. it just introduces MORE of them at the end of each level, rather than throwing out a new boss.
Also, The way the special weapons work, in my opinion, would have been better if they weren’t random, and if they didn’t activate as soon as you picked it up. something of a tier system that lasted until you exploded would have been nice. A system where you could grab a power up, store it until you grabbed another power up, and this would essentially upgrade you’re weapon to the next tier if you so choose, or you could save it until the next power up you grab, which would then push it to the next tier and so on. Using the powerup would reset the tier back down to 1. So you would have to decide when it was a good time to use it versus risking being overpowered by too many enemies. maybe in the next game? or in an update?
One big problem that plagued Touch KO when I reviewed it, and is present in this game as well, is when you get a call while playing. instead of the game pausing. it simply resets at the beginning when the call ends. This, if in the middle of a hard course, can be very frustrating, I hope it gets fixed in the near future.
This is one crazy looking game. it’s very fluid on the 3GS, and loading times are miniscule. Graphically, it’s not a complex game, won’t show off the horsepower of your i-Device like Modern Combat, or even Chillingo’s own Touch KO. But what it lacks in complexity, it makes up in details and art direction.
In terms of details, as you’re pulling up to a Subway stop, the camera pulls back and you see in the right side of the screen, part of your character in a hoodie as he’s talking, in the window pane, you see his reflection. When the train starts up again, you see it fade away to give you a clean view of the game play. pressing the menu button doesn’t just throw up a rude pause screen, the action will freeze and your guy will look up at the trains route map above the door and then show the pause screen, unpausing shifts his view back down, and the action slowly kicks back up, to give you sometime to adjust to the game again.
The Art style, as I’ve said many times, is almost entirely made up of graffiti work by Frames. I am not familiar with his work, but if this is all of his doing then I’m scared for his mental stability. (kidding.)
There are many different, crazy types of enemies in the game, and the visuals are all very colorful and vibrant and all fit together pretty well. Some enemies look like a child scribbled them in a coloring book, but most have a very humorous and well crafted appearance. I don’t want to give away too many details, but my favorite looking enemy would have to be the floating Pistols weaning the Redneck trucker caps that won’t stop shooting. A larger variation of both design and enemy attack patterns would have created a more well-rounded experience that may of shrugged off some of the feeling of repetition, but wanting more isn’t exactly a negative.
There isn’t an over abundance of sounds in the game. the sound of the text displaying on screen is simple clicking, the constant *…..shuck shuck………..shuck shuck….* of the train tracks as you travel to your destination is a nice touch, and doesn’t drown out anything, you eventually stop noticing it until the next stop. Hitting the enemies with your shots makes kind of… I dunno, a farting noise almost? it’s subtle, but could have been something else. But when the enemy actually dies, it makes a nice little Record scratch noise which sometimes syncs up with the music playing pretty well and that’s kind of satisfying.
The music, there really should have been more of it. It ties the game together very well, I’m not really a fan of just DJ scratching, but I dig this sound. The tracks provide an eerie ambience that directs the flow of the game into it’s shocking finale and fits pretty well with the on screen imagery. And really, the only problem I have with it is that there are only like 3 or 4 tracks available. I know adding more would increase the size of the app. But I have to think that providing more than just a sample of Pp3D’s work would get people to want to buy an album.
The whole package of this game just… I’m not sure, It’s a very good game, it’s pretty polished, it’s fun, and it tells a story. But, I get this feeling like, it could have been more. It all feels like the creators, Kinelco had bigger ideas and ambition, and they scaled it back for whatever reason. I’m not saying it’s a bad game by any means at all. I thought it was a great game. It did leave me wanting more, not just at the end of the game, but a bit more diversity in difficulty and gameplay. After I got use to the controls, the game didn’t exactly become a cake walk, but the challenge never got to intense levels. There are 4 different difficulties available in the options menu. (Easy, Normal, Hard, Impossible.) and I have started a game on Impossible to see where that leads. But even in the normal setting, the final boss should have felt more rewarding to defeat.
All in all, I want to thank Chillingo for the freebie, and say that I totally recommend this game to anybody who loves Rail Shooters. For those not into Side scrolling shooters, it may even be worth picking up. (or downloading the “Lite” version that will probably be released soon.) just to take in the headcocking style of both music and artwork.
Final Score—- 8.4