The Unreal Engine has considerably opened up the world of iOS gaming since it’s introduction late last year. Games taking advantage of the engine generally have incredible graphics and fantastic gameplay. Dungeon Defenders, Infinity Blade, Dark Meadow, Gyro13, these are titles that truly take advantage of what Unreal can do on the iDevice. However, there are a few titles that really do not grab onto everything that Unreal has to offer. Sadly, Puya Dadgar’s title, Arrow of Time is one of these titles.
First off, the graphics in Arrow of Time are done fairly well, however, the animations are really clunky, and not very impressive. Most of the time, it looks like characters are sliding along the ground while running or walking, and it looks like multiple frames have been left out of most of the animations.
Control-wise, you’re able to move with a joystick, aim by swiping on the screen, shoot your weapon by tapping the fire button in the lower right corner. Here’s where it gets pretty uncomfortable. To jump, you’ll need to flick your device either to the left or to the right, and to do an avoidance roll, you need to flick your device forward, or towards yourself.
The collision detection is also something that needs to be worked on quite a bit, as it makes the game extremely frustrating, and almost unplayable. In the second level of the game, you’re required to jump up and grab onto a part of a wall, then pull yourself up. While grabbing onto the wall is done automatically, running up to the wall, and then quickly flicking your device to the left or right will make your character jump up and grab it. Here’s where the collision detection comes in. Half the time, the game will automatically move your character to the left or right, rotating them, having them holding on to air. Your character can get stuck like this, not being able to flick the device again to pull yourself up, or use the joystick or dodge flicks to make your character let go of the wall, forcing you to re-start the stage from the beginning. About 40% of the time, your character will go straight into the wall, getting stuck as well, with no way to get them out, again, forcing you to restart the level. There are some cases in which your character will go into the wall, but still be able to climb up with a left/right flick of your device, and some times the act is done the way it’s supposed to be done. In short, you’ll be able to pull this off about 1 out of 7 or so times, and with level 2 requiring you to do this three times, it’s almost impossible to make it through the stage. There are other sections where collision detection gets to be VERY frustrating, like in stage 1, when you’re supposed to protect a girl, but somehow the enemies swords are able to reach through you, and about 4 times the length of the sword to kill the woman, requiring you to start over. I think you get the point.
There are various cut-scenes throughout the game, which are not terribly voice-acted, but there is no option to skip, and no pause button, so you’ll need to set aside a certain amount of time when you have no chance of being bothered. Some of the cut-scenes give you information which you’ll need in order to progress through the game, so they can be fairly important.
Summed up, Arrow of Time is a game that still needs a lot of work. It feels like a demo or beta version of what could eventually wind up being a decent game. Considering the game was made by two people over a period of 3 months, it’s not incredibly bad. However, the game shows that it was made by two people who worked on it only for 3 months. Priced at $1.99, it’s one of the cheapest Unreal powered games you can get in the AppStore, and the game is Universal. There is no GameCenter or OpenFeint integration, but the game doesn’t really call out for it. Basically, if you’re dying for a 3rd person action adventure game, Arrow of Time might be worth picking up. It does have 8 ratings in the US AppStore, 7 of them are 5 star ratings, however, if you read them, most of them sound like they are from friends or people that might know the developers. Hopefully, Puya Dadgar has plans of working on the game, and fixing as many issues as they can in future updates, but as it is now, it’s a very frustrating experience.
Gyro13 is a physics based helicopter arcade game developed by Cinemax. Within the game, you’ll pilot a steam powered helicopter through South American gyroxide mines while picking up stranded miners, and avoiding hazards, obstacles, and navigating through wind-gusts and sometimes extremely narrow paths. Gyro13 builds on old-school gameplay while using extremely polished graphics, and top notch physics.
Cinemax used the Unreal Engine to develop Gyro13, and it quickly joins the ranks of Dungeon Defenders and Infinity Blade in terms of amazingly beautiful graphics right at first glance. The environments are awe-inspiring, making it hard to go through the levels quickly. But since the atmosphere is toxic, you must get the miners to the safe-zone before they run out of air, and die.
Each of the 24 levels are designed brilliantly. The amount of thought that has gone into the path you will take while making it through level after level is insane. The hazards and objects that will make it harder for you to make it quickly through the mines are also very intelligently, and thoughtfully added, being placed and positioned with immense care. Big active windmills, huge pendulums quickly swinging, mechanical hammers, doors that require you to open them, mines that follow you along with mindfields to navigate through and gusts of wind that can send you directly into the side of the mines are just some of the objects you’ll need to maneuver our helicopter through.
Luckily, Gyro13 has great controls that make flying through even the more narrow corridors a task that can be accomplished even while rushing to the end of the level. You’re given a boost button, which, of course, boosts the rotation of your blades, sending you in the direction that you’re angled at, a slider bar that controls left and right movement, and a gun that gets rid of pockets of toxic gas, and mines, that‘s activated by touching anywhere else on the screen. These controls are, by default, boost on the left, slider bar on the right, but you’re able to flip these in the options menu. This set-up works exceedingly well, and actually gives players more control than you would think. Rushing through levels, you’ll end up narrowly escaping death hundreds of times, most of the time by almost running into an un-seen object. With the control set-up, you’re able to graze the sides of the mine, along with other objects, by flying at a tilted angle, using the objects to push you in the other direction by using the air pushed off of the propellers. Summed up, the controls work exceedingly well because of the top notch physics.
To top it all off, the soundtrack is astounding. I actually paused the game on levels 15 and 16 this morning, plugged my iPod into my stereo, and listened to the tracks on repeat for about an hour. The music adds so much to the feel of the game, it’s a shame I know a couple of people that are going to turn it off while they play just because they refuse to listen to any game music while playing games, but this is yet another game that will be added to my “I seriously hope they release the soundtrack on bandcamp or iTunes” list. The effects fit in with the music as well, the sound of the helicopter and the sounds for running into walls, machines, or picking up miners all fits in with the atmosphere that the music brings.
So by now, you probably think that Cinemax has paid me to write up this review, and might have blown me off as another sold soul, but I assure you, that is not the case. This truly is one of the best iOS games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. It’s incredibly immersive, has amazing graphics, superb animations, intelligent level design, great music, top notch physics matched with outstanding controls, and, of course, awesome gameplay. It’s no surprise that the game is $5.99. I really hope that more developers start putting this amount of work into their games, and bring us more console-like experiences on our handheld devices. The pricing doesn’t bother me at all when the game could be sold on Steam for double the price. Gyro13 is also universal, so you’ll be able to see all the amazing graphics the way they were meant to be seen on your iPad as well. Cinemax has definitely raised the bar for immersive iOS arcade gaming with this release. I really can not recommend it enough.