If you’re a regular reader of TheAppShack, you probably know by now that my favorite genre of video games is platformers. Especially exploratory platformers. As I’ve said a few times, Metroid II – Return of Samus is my favorite video game of ALL TIME. These days, my iPod is my main gaming console, and yes, I know how weird that is, and that I am in a very small group of people here, but anyway, I have been hoping that Metroidvania titles would become more frequent in the AppStore. Phoenix Spirit and Grokion seemed to be the only titles within this genre for quite some time, but over the last year or so, Metroidvania fans have grown, or, more likely, have gotten iDevices, and releases like Elemental Rage, Miss Claire Garden, Cordy, Glowfish, Emberwind, BlibBlob, Shantae, SpyCorp, and a few more have added loads of fuel to the fire. Granted, not all of these are TRUE Metroidvania titles, but they do incorporate quite a bit of exploration, and for die-hard fans of the genre, that’s usually enough. So now, when a platformer comes along that has “exploration” mentioned within 5 feet of it, I’m usually one of the first people to jump all over it.
FireFruitForge has been working on a little game that’s going by the name Terra Noctis (originally named After Dark, if any readers out there heard of it a while back, but they decided to change the name so as not to run into any legal issues). It’s a retro inspired platformer, with influences from Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, and has quite a bit of exploration thrown in as well. There are 3 difficulty levels, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare, with the harder difficulties having more enemies, more traps, and less platforms.
There are 40 levels spread across 4 different worlds. Each level has a 100% completion rate available for it; to get a 100% completion, you’ve got to find all 15 of the red fairies scattered throughout the level, the large gold coin, usually hidden in a harder to reach area of the level, and grab 5 orbs, each with a letter in them, spelling out S-C-A-R-E. There are also blue fairies in each level, which you can collect, and use to buy items in the game’s shop. In the shop, you’re able to buy extra lives, as well as power-ups that you can equip and use as many times as you like until you loose a life, or complete a level. All of the items in the shop are very reasonably priced, all between 80 and 150 fairies. If you explore a little bit in each level, you can usually get around 200-350+ fairies in each level. All of the levels are also re-playable after you beat them, so if you get stuck, you can go back and play some previously completed levels, and buy some items to help you.
The controls for Terra Noctis are set-up like most platformer games on the iOS. You’ve got your left/right arrows in the bottom left corner, and then your bottom right corner has your duck/smash/option button, and your jump button. While standing on the ground, your duck/smash/option button is used to duck, while in the air, it can be used to make your character, Allen, curl his legs up, and smash down into the ground, which can break certain blocks, and be used as an attack, and when in front of a cave entrance, can be used to enter the cave. Your jump button is pretty self-explanatory, and you are able to double-jump, or fall off of a cliff, and use your 2nd jump while falling, which does come in handy quite a bit. You are able to throw projectiles as well, and this is done by tapping and holding on the play area, and then dragging your finger to aim where you want to throw your projectile, having it fly in the direction chosen when you lift your finger. Tapping on the play area while you‘re in the air will allow Allen to throw a projectile straight forward, which works perfectly for taking out enemies on higher up platforms. The controls are tight, and very responsive. Actually, they’re probably some of the most responsive controls for a non-speed run platformer within the AppStore. The movement arrows could go to be a tad bit smaller, but they are very transparent, so they don’t really get in the way. Would just be nice to have it look a little slicker.
Now, once you start up the game, choose a difficulty, enter the first level, and start making your way to the end of the level, you’ll notice immediately that the level design is very well thought out. You’ll have quite a bit to look forward to as you make your way through the game, because it only gets better as you progress. The level design throughout the game is actually some of the best I’ve ever experienced. The amount of time and thought that must have gone into the design is apparent pretty much every step you make. Not to mention how much time must have gone into testing the levels to make sure jumps were just right, and everything got lined up perfectly.
Another aspect of the game that jumps right out at you once you first start playing are the graphics. The colors that have been chosen, the details that have been included, the backgrounds, objects throughout the levels that you can interact with, and objects that you can’t, there is not one thing that looks like it doesn‘t belong. The entire Terra Noctis world is mind-blowing. Smooth, modern graphics and textures that still hold a retro feeling within them, making it feel old-school while still being graphically impressive by the standards of today’s iOS games. This, along with the awesome back-ground-music, and smooth as butter animations for everything from walking and flying, to the fairies life like movement and particles of dust traveling through the air comes together to create one hell of an immersive environment.
On top of everything else, the amount of enemies you’ll face while making your way through the game is just perfect. Once you get through the first world, and start on the second, you might start to wonder if you’ve seen all the enemies there is to see, and then one will pop up that you haven’t run into previously. Then another, and another. To make things even more impressive, all of the enemy designs are incredibly well done, and fit perfectly within the game. There are also bosses at the end of each world, all of which are amazingly well done, with battles that change up the gameplay quite a bit, and throw an extremely high scoring situation at the player.
It’s clear, after playing the game, that Terra Noctis is very deserving of it’s $2.99 price-tag, if not more. Being Universal, including iCade support, the amount of content, especially for 100% completionist fanatics, and the OpenFeint leaderboards, 24 hard to snag achievements, as well as top scores for each level that are shown at the level select screen, should keep any gamer, even platformer fanatics, busy for quite some time. It’s easily one of the best platform games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, and the amount of work, time, effort, and testing that has gone into Terra Noctis, shines through with every single frame of the game. After being able to play this for the last two weeks, I can very confidently say that it is my #3 favorite game of 2011, right under Space Tripper and Anomaly Warzone Earth. With Normal difficulty very reminiscent of the difficulty in old-school Mario games, Terra Noctis is great for all gamers, and is HIGHLY recommended. FireFruitForge has given iOS gamers a phenomenal piece of art all wrapped up in a tightly controlled, highly enjoyable, modern/old-school mesh of a video game. Everyone with an iDevice should grab it as soon as possible