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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Destructopus (iPhone)

Remember Rampage? It’s one of those retro game series that has fallen way out of favour, but at the time, it was an arcade classic. It essentially followed the formula of Godzilla – gargantuan beastie tears up cities, and put you in control of one of three different monsters – an ape, a wolf and a lizard, and had you smashing buildings and eating people for points.

Dodging is this game's greatest weakness. In short - it's sluggish

Destructopus takes that basic idea and throws a few beat-em-up elements into the mix to create a side scrolling smash-them-all. It works, but it’s also eerie in that it’s managed to replicate many of the problems that has plagued recent attempts to update Rampage.

Chief among those is sluggish controls. Perhaps because he’s taller than almost any building, Destructopus also controls like a broken tank. Missiles fly into the screen, and you’re going to have to press the duck button way, way in advance to avoid being hit. Early on you’ll acquire a dash move, which requires you to double tap the “forward” button, but it’s a pointless move, because Destructopus will then stop moving temporarially. Attacks, too, have a significant delay between the button press and the action being performed, making timing difficult.

Now, this might be realistic (as realistic as expected for a game about giant monsters smashing up stuff), but it’s not exactly entertaining. Throw in a difficulty level that inflates artificially, and the game can get downright infuriating.

The boss battles tend to be a lot of fun, if only because they break up the regular action

What I mean by that is: difficulty spikes can be quite huge from level to level, but by simply wandering into a shop and purchasing a few upgrades (some can be bought with in-game points you’ve earned, others require real money), the levels suddenly become easy, because all of a sudden Destrutopus can soak up the cheap incidents of collateral damage, and can suddenly move fast enough to catch the food that’s running away from him.

The fact that some of the best upgrades cost additional money to buy, in that context, seems quite cynical. It’s also worth noting that at this stage there is no Game Center integration, which is disappointing since this game is all about the points.

What is much more enjoyable is the presentation. The game is genuinely good looking, with great use of colour and animation to create a world filled with cartoon violence. There’s not a huge number of levels, but the variety within those levels, and the level design itself, is quite decent. The music accompanies the action superbly, sounding just like the B-grade monster flick it draws so much inspiration from.

Enemy patterns can be genuinely difficult at times

Destructopus is probably an indication that Rampage-like games are no longer relevant in the modern era of gaming. We want precise control over our characters these days, not to fight with lumbering brutes to make any progress. While it’s a great-looking game, and while it has plenty of content for a little downloadable game, Destructopus is also a touch flat in execution. That said, it will probably find a reasonable following, so we look forward to see if a future sequel can tighten the controls up.

Review: Destructopus (iPhone)
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