The iPhone has proved itself to be a great little platform for mobile gaming, but if it has one weakness it's that a lot of the titles tend to be either shoot em ups or puzzle games. One genre that is under-represented is the "stealth-em-up" like the Metal Gear Solid or Assassin's Creed titles. Until, that is The Nightworld came along.
The Nightworld takes place in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?!) where food is incredibly scarce. As one of the underclass in society, you have to fight for every bit of food so that you and your gang can survive. Naturally, other gangs protect their supplies jealously, leading to a deadly kill or be killed battle for supplies and survival.
The first thing that strikes you about Nightworld is the superb presentation. From the cinematic opening which sets the scene through to the in-game graphics, everything has been beautifully designed to create a dark and forbidding atmosphere . Most of the in-game graphics are very dark this gives the game a suitably oppressive feel. It is a look that is used to good effect to give the game a fantastic atmosphere and add an extra element to the gameplay. You will quickly find that the gloomy,dark corners of the game world form an essential part of your survival strategy, giving you places to hide from your enemies as you plot your next move.
The game is viewed from a top-down perspective which works well. It gives you a wider perspective of the game area (helping you to spot enemies who are close by, as well as bits you can use as cover). The main characters are well defined, as is the background scenery and it's a game that has had a lot of attention lavished on its presentation.
It has to be said that Nightworld is quite violent graphically. When you successfully sneak up behind an opponent, you are treated to a cut-scene of you breaking his neck to silence him. Be warned; it's not for the squeamish!
The one downside to the graphics is that they are a little awkward to view in certain lighting conditions. In bright light, the various blacks and greys don't show up too well and the game becomes difficult to play (although in fairness, this is as much to do with the iPhone's hardware as the game itself). In normal lighting conditions, however, it's fine.
Sound is similarly excellent and of cinematic quality, Although sound effects are relatively limited (this is, after all, a game where stealth is more important than gunplay) they are used to good effect; the silences reinforce the oppressive atmosphere, whilst the sudden shouts from enemies as they spot you can induce a real sense of panic as you can often hear them, but not see them. There's also an excellent voice-over for the introduction and cut scenes. When Mrs SWSt heard me playing it, she thought I was playing a Batman game, since your main character has the same gruff, focussed vocals that Christian Bale brought to the Dark Knight.
Good though the game looks and sounds, though, it's the gameplay which really appeals and offers something a little different. As a gang member, you are offered missions which you can undertake in return for credits (credits earned can then be used to buy/upgrade weapons). Generally, these involve objectives such as infiltrating enemy territory and killing all enemy gang members, stealing their food supplies and so on. Whilst there's not a huge amount of variety in the actual mission objectives, each one feels sufficiently different to prevent boredom from setting in too quickly.
Unlike many games, even when your mission is to kill all the enemies in a particularly territory, you can't just go in all guns blazing and the use of stealth is essential to escape detection for as long as possible. Shooting your way through will only lead to dozens of gang members closing in on your position and result in a swift death. This is more about strategy than shooting.
As such, you need to think carefully about how to use the scenery to your advantage. Rather than simply charging through the level, you have to move quickly and quietly, using shadows and the remains of buildings to give you cover as you sneak up on enemies from behind. This tactical approach is deeply satisfying and each time you manage to outwit an opponent, you get a great sense of achievement.
Of course, if things do go badly, you do have guns at your disposal but as noted above, this attracts the attention of other enemies, so you need to complete your kill quickly and then run to find cover before reinforcements arrive. The whole point of Nightworld is that stealth brings success, getting involved in a pitched gun battle inevitably results in your death.
Like many games, it can become frustrating if you keep dying on a particular level and have to continually replay it. This is particularly true early on when you are still developing your skills and you may find yourself having to do the same things over and over again before you finally succeed. In fairness, the game tries to help out with this problem by giving you access to several missions at any one time so if you struggle with one, you can temporarily switch to another and return to the tricky one later on. Unlike some games, getting stuck in Nightworld does not necessarily bring your progress in the game to a complete standstill.
On the whole, the controls in Nightworld have been very well implemented, although there are a couple of minor niggles. Movement is achieved simply by pressing on the screen, which will cause your character to run to that spot. This can be slightly awkward in combat, when you are trying to run up to a character, as it can occasionally be a little easy to accidentally press the wrong spot and run past your opponent, who then fires at you from off-screen.
Combat is achieved in two ways. The best way is to sneak up behind an opponent so that a small circle with an arrow appears. All you have to do then is place your finger on the arrow and swipe in the corresponding direction to break your opponent's neck. This is very responsive and works well.
The other method is to resort to your guns. Shooting is performed by tapping the enemy you want to kill and two red laser lines converge from each side. When the two lines merge, tap the enemy again to fire. Although this mostly works well, it can ocacsionally cause problems. For the second tap (to start firing), you have to be very accurate and make sure you tap exactly on the enemy. If you are just a fraction off the game assumes your want to resight your weapon and starts with the two converging lines again. This effectively leaves you defenceless, giving your enemy a couple of free shots at you whilst you are reacquiring the target. This has happened to me a few times, leading to several frustrating deaths.
The basic app is currently free (it originally came with a £2.99 price tag, although credits can be bought as in-app purchases to help upgrade your character faster, and these are priced at between £1.49 to £69.99(!). However, in-app purchases are not essential to allow you to progress - they just make life easier. If you're looking for something different from the standard game styles offered by the iPhone, then this could well be the game for you.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012