Thursday, April 9, 2009

Astrosphere. ($2.99, version 1)

iTunes link.

Astosphere is a puzzle game.  You have to navigate a ship through space, picking up powerups and ultimately navigating to the goal.

When you first begin the app, you get some upbeat drum music and a menu of options.  These include New Game, Resume Game, Highscore, Credits, and Help.  Highscore is self-explanatory.  Credits includes some information about the developer.  Help includes a description of all in-game objects, such as blocks that stop you from moving and objects that give you an extra life.  If you have a game in progress and select New Game, it verifies that you want to trash your saved game, which is nice.  You progress through levels and if you don't finish a level, you are taken back to that level after losing a life.  The level does not look exactly the same when you restart it; it will move around the level elements.  This keeps the gameplay fresh, but you cannot use trial-an-error to solve the level (which for some may be a big plus).

The game screen includes your score, the level, and how many lives you have left.  You start out with 20 lives, which is a nice amount.  A suggestion would be to maybe add a counter at the beginning so that you can choose how many lives you start the game with.  1-99, for instance.  That way everyone gets to have their own personalized experience.  1 for hardcomer gamers, 99 for those who just want a casual puzzle game.

There is thankfully no timer (as you read more of my reviews you will notice I am not a fan of timers; it's artificial difficulty/frustration).  Many people like timers, though, so maybe a Timed game mode could be added.

There are two major flaws to the game.  The first one is that there is no pause button.  Since there is no timer it would seem no pause button is needed, but a pause button could stop the music and also keep one from accidentally pressing on the screen and losing a life.

The second one is that there is no way to return to the main menu.  You have to close and reopen the app to get back to the main menu.  Returning to the main menu may come in handy if more game modes are added.

Another suggestion would be to add a small speaker icon to the lower right or left of the screen which would mute the sound.  Something even nicer would be to have the option to mute sound and sound effects separately, as I tend to like sound effects but music distracts me from the game most of the time (and I tend to play mostly puzzle games).  This could be accomplished by a Sound Menu branched off from the main menu.

The sound doesn't change throughout the game.  There are sound effects such as a clanking noise when hitting a brick, but are very minimal.  The graphics are basic and not flashy.  It's mostly blocks on a screen.  Whenever you die, you are penalized 5% of your score (that way the hit is not as great when you have a lower score). 

Where this game shines is the gameplay, though.  It is fun to try to figure out how to get to the goal while obtaining all powerups in the stage.  You can use blocks to stop you and be able to change direction, there are blocks that redirect you in a 45-degree angle, arrows that only stop you if you come in contact with them in one direction, gems to increase yoru score, teleporters that transport you to another part of the screen, switches that turn on and off blocks of the same color, and extra lives.

Controls are simple.  Touch the upper part of the screen to go up, lower part of the screen to go down, left side of the screen to go left, and right side of the screen to go right.  If when you finish the game you obtained a score high enough to be in the High Score list, it shows you what place you achieved. 

When you die, it takes you to the main menu.  A nice touch is that from here you can "Resume game" and it takes you to the last unsolved level with five lives.  This is a nice touch because it makes advancing through the levels possible without having to restart from level one every single time you run out of lives.

The game is not too easy or too difficult, and the difficulty ramps up gradually.  Plainly, the game is fun.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes relaxing puzzle games.

1 comment:

  1. Great review gatordeb. Maybe though you could make it more casual and put more soul and heart then plain facts.