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iRepton (iPhone Game)

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1 Review

Manufacturer: ESZ Consulting / Type: iPhone Game

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      17.05.2010 17:45
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      A good game, but one which is ill-suited to the iPhone

      iRepton is an updated version of the classic 8-bit maze game Repton. It sees you controlling a little green lizard as he runs around a series of underground mines, collecting diamonds whilst avoiding monsters and boulders (which crash to earth if he digs beneath them.)

      iRepton is a classic puzzle game and I shudder to think of the hours I have lost playing various versions of it over the years. So when an iPhone version was released I found myself once more powerless to resist it.

      The actual game play is as good as I remember. As well as collecting all the diamonds within a strict time limit, you also need to find navigate your way around the maze. This can be quite tricky, particularly on later levels. Some areas can only be accessed by digging tunnels, moving boulders into new positions or finding alternative ways past seemingly impassable objects; whilst some areas can only be accessed if you have found the key to unlock them. This makes the game more than just a run-of-the-mill "chase and collect" game, as part of the challenge is working out exactly what you need to move where to be able to get to where you want to be. It's challenging, but addictive and constantly keeps you coming back for more.

      These aspects of the game are all well-balanced. Early levels introduce you to the basic concept and can be completed easily, whilst later levels are really quite fiendish and will take some working out. To make matters worse, various monsters lurk in the maze and hunt you down, taking one of your lives if you bump into them.

      It's here that that the first serious flaw raises its ugly head. If one of the monsters kills you, you have the option to continue from where you died or restart from level one. Hitting Continue reveals a problem. As soon as you appear back on screen, the monster which just killed you immediately leaps on you again, giving you no time to react as you kiss goodbye to another life. I experienced great frustration as being hit once effectively meant game over as I lost all my remaining lives to the same monster in less than 10 seconds. This is a deeply unfair gaming mechanism and is a serious impediment to enjoying the iRepton.

      There are also problems thanks to the display area. Due to the size of the Phone's screen, the visible playing area is quite small. Too often monsters are lurking just off-screen and as soon as you move into their area, they pounce on you and again, you have no time to react. Monsters are pretty nippy on their feet, so unless you have lots of warning that they are coming, they can be difficult to escape. You can kill them by dropping a boulder on their head, but thanks to their speed, this can be tricky.

      Graphics are big and bold and blocky, with a certain child-like, cartoon quality, which makes them instantly appealing. Young children will like the cute little lizard, whilst fans of the original will still feel comfortable with the sympathetic way the game has been updated.

      Graphics are quite sparse and, to some extent lacking in variety, but this services the game well. The simple graphics means the screen is uncluttered so that it is much easier to work out how to solve the various puzzles to complete a level.

      There's even the option to switch to retro mode, which restores the original graphics and sound. These might look and sound rather crude today but they will bring back a huge wave of nostalgia for anyone who played the original. It's not purely a gimmick, though, as the game is just as playable (possibly more so) in this mode.

      Sound is fairly standard with a range of effects and a few jolly tunes sprinkled throughout the game. Nothing to get too excited about, but nothing that's going to cause ear drums to bleed, either.

      The game offers a choice of two control methods. The default is to use the touch screen to move Repton around and this works very well. It's highly responsive, giving you a real sense of control over your character. iRepton often requires you to manoeuvre your character through small gaps and I was concerned that the iPhone controls would not be up to this level of precision. In fact, they have been very well implemented making the game very easy to pick up and start playing, whilst giving you that all important feeling of control.

      The second control method is less successful. Via the Settings screen, you can choose a virtual directional pad (D-Pad) consisting of arrows corresponding to the four directions. I found this really cumbersome. The arrows are too big and take up a huge chunk of the screen. No matter how I used it, I found my fingers got in the way, obscuring my view.

      Interestingly, there are two versions available. The full version (costing £2.99) gives you the full game (around 60 levels). iRepton Lite gives you 20 taster levels, so that you can try before you buy. If you like it, you can purchase the extra levels (or scenarios) from within the app itself, rather than having to download the full version. You can even choose to buy some additional levels or all of them at a cost of between 59p-£1.19 each. I think it does work out slightly more expensive to download all available levels this way, but I like the idea of giving the user greater control over the levels they buy. On the other hand, I view in-app purchases with slight suspicion and much will depend on how iRepton develops. If everyone - full or Lite users - is expected to pay to download any future additional levels, this is not something I would welcome. Whilst additional levels are not expensive, I feel quite strongly that once you have purchased an app, you should be entitled to receive future updates for free.

      I really wanted to like iRepton, but the iPhone version just has too many problems. The limited display area and unfair game play mechanics make it a deeply frustrating experience. The puzzle elements are fun, and there's a lot to like in the game, but the unfair computer limits the amount of enjoyment you can have. I'd advise you to download the lite version and try out the free levels. If you can put up with the unfair tactics, you can always purchase the additional levels later. If you find it too frustrating, you've not lost anything.

      © Copyright SWSt 2010

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