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Look Up (iPhone Application)

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1 Review

Publisher: / Type: Game of skill

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      21.01.2011 17:30
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      A clever idea looking for a game

      Look Up! is one of those games which sounds great on paper, but sadly doesn't work so well in practice, thanks to some rather bizarre controls and underwhelming game play.

      The idea is simple. Those pesky aliens are once again invading Earth, and it's down to you to stop them. As their flying saucers hover about the landscape, you must hunt them down and destroy them with your lasers.

      So far, so Space Invaders; but Look Up! has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to try and distinguish it from all the other wannabe shooters that are available on the App Store.

      It's first trick is a very clever little technical gimmick and, arguably, is the game's main selling point. Most shooters are set in space (lots of black with occasional stars and planets) or on a planet surface (lots of rocks and space debris). This is boring and old hat. Look Up! clearly agrees and sets out to provide something a little bit different.

      By making clever use of the iPhone's camera, the game uses your current backdrop as the setting for the game, presumably to make the invasion seem more realistic. You're not fighting for some abstract notion like "the future of mankind", you're fighting to stop the aliens taking over your own living room! The game doesn't just take a single static image of your environment either, but changes it in real time. If you move the phone, the background to the game will also change to reflect where the camera is now pointed.

      Sadly, this innovation is not extended to the rest of the graphics which are very basic. The attacking ships are the usual UFO flying saucer shape, dull metallic grey in colour; laser fire is simply a couple of coloured lines. Unfortunately, the saucers don't change in colour to take account of your background, so if you are in a environment which contains lots of greys, it's far too easy to lose them saucer against the backdrop. This introduces a large element of frustration. Lose the saucers and you have to sweep backwards and forwards, trying to work out where on earth it is, whilst sustaining damage from the unseen/camouflaged enemy.

      The second innovative feature of Look Up! comes with the controls which, although based around the iPhone's accelerometer's are used in a slightly different way. You hold the phone in your hands, with your arms straight out in front of you at right angles to your body. If you want to look to the left, you swing your arms and the phone to the left; if you want to look above you, you raise the phone above your head, all the time looking through the viewfinder. In other words, Look Up! tries to imitate a Virtual Reality game with 360 degree movement taking the place of simple left/right controls.

      Again, sadly, these controls might be innovative, but they don't aid game play. For a start, this is not a game you want to be playing in public, since you look like a bit of a berk swinging your phone above your head or down to your feet to hunt for aliens. Even when I was playing it with just Mrs SWSt present in the room, I attracted some strange looks and eventually elicited the question "what on EARTH are you doing?!" This is definitely a game to play in private.

      Even if you don't mind looking like an idiot, the controls still cause problems. Swinging your phone about so much makes it tricky to keep the screen visible and you find yourself having to hold the phone (or yourself) at some very odd angles. This, in turn, makes the game rather uncomfortable to play. After only a couple of goes, I found my arms, back and neck aching from the constant movement and unnatural positions I was forced to play in. Look Up! is definitely not a game to play if you suffer any sort of back or neck pain. True, there is a 180 degree mode option, which you can play sitting down and requires much less movement of the phone, but in practice, I found this didn't make much of a difference.

      If you strip out Look Up's two genuinely innovative features, there's not much left. The game itself is a rather slow dull shooter which simply requires you to shoot UFOs and occasionally use your tractor beam to grab Health icons. It lacks any sort of long term challenge and quickly becomes boring and repetitive. The lack of variety soon kills off any desire to play more than a couple of games at a time. In fact, I haven't returned to Look Up! for a long time now and it's a prime candidate for deletion the next time I have a clear out of apps on my phone.

      Look Up! is a clear case of someone coming up with a clever technical trick and then trying to force a game to go with it. It doesn't work this way round: it's game play that makes or breaks a game and the boring, repetitive nature of Look Up! kills it stone dead. It's a nice idea, but even at 59p, I couldn't recommend it.

      © Copyright SWSt 2011

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