Aim for the limbs!
Dead Space on iPhone could have easily been an on-rails game. In fact, when we first saw the screenshots here we thought it would be. To my surprise, though, it turned out to be a full on third person shooter and certainly EA’s greatest achievement to date.
Rather than follow events of the first game, Dead Space takes the player to the setting of Dead Space 2 to witness the arrival of the Necromorph on The Sprawl, a huge space station orbiting around Saturn. The station is in the control of a ruthless government but the church wants to take control and, in the process, unleashes the Necromorph infestation that Isaac Clarke will find in Dead Space 2.
Instead of controlling Isaac from the Dead Space console games, you get to play as Vandal, a newly recruited undercover agent for the church. It's obvious from the start that he's uneasy with the mission he has been given.
Once we are introduced to Vandal, the game begins with the player actually being responsible for cutting the power to parts of the station and the subsequent release of the Necromorph. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself knee deep in twisted alien limbs, blowing off each one in turn with your set of upgradable weapons, including the plasma cutter and saw players of the original Dead Space loved so much.
If that sounds familiar, then it’s not surprising. Somehow, developer Ironmonkey Studios has managed to get the essence of a full Dead Space game on to the iOS platforms. Graphically, this is one of the best titles to appear on retina displays, certainly the best looking game since the benchmark-setting Infinity Blade hit the App store last year. Rays of light permeate the dark corridors and shadows lurk menacingly in corners, ensuring that your progress is hindered by the uncertainty of what lays in wait. The iPad version improves on this with hints of dynamic lighting and an even greater attention to detail than the 4th Generation phone version. If you are lucky enough to be in possession of an iPad then Dead Space is an essential purchase.
Sound, too, has been lovingly created to produce an atmospheric environment that is best experienced through a good quality set of headphones. If you don’t jump while playing this then you aren’t paying enough attention to the game. The music and sound effects are perfect for keeping the player on their toes during long jaunts down dark corridors.
But a shooter on the iPhone isn’t complete without a good control system, as many previous titles have unfortunately proved. Good news; Dead Space has got it just right. Control via the age-old virtual pad is as perfect as it gets, the camera is controlled by moving your finger on the right hand side of the screen and weapons are controlled via a unique system of aiming, swiping up and then moving in a certain direction on the screen. Likewise, your kenesis powers are a case of simply touching the object and moving.
Tilting or shaking the device will give you a secondary function to your weapon. While its nice to have, I found this to be a little slow at times, not ideal when you have half a dozen monsters running towards you with the aim to rip your face off. In general, though, the control system feels tighter and more refined than any other shooter on iOS.
With the Dead Space series the emphasis has always been on the dread of what is waiting for you around the corner. While the iPhone can’t quite capture this on the smaller screen, it does the best job it can and there are a couple of real stand-out butt clenching moments in between the tearing apart of Necromorph limbs. Is it perfect? Well, there could have been more scares with less shooting and a slower pace and I’m still out on whether shaking to change weapon type is the right way to go, but aside from these points the game does far more than I expected.
The fact that this is a completely original story which happens to tie in to the second game helps to make it feel far more than just a rehash of a console game on the iPhone. Thanks to the graphical flare, a fantastic control scheme and atmospheric sound, the sum of Ironmonkey’s efforts come together to create a stand-out survival horror experience second to none on iOS.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 10
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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