Help! We need a rescue ship to save us from these horrible controls!
Dropship, the latest from ngmoco, is a stylish space shooter with snazzy looking vector graphics and a pulse-pounding soundtrack. In the game, you navigate a spaceship through an assortment of mazes and make off with green pods before time runs out, rescuing people and blasting enemies along the way. Although it looks impressive and reminds us of the arcade classic, Tempest, despicable controls make it one of the iPhone's worst apps.
At first, we assumed (wrongly) that Dropship had motion controls. You can therefore imagine our surprise when the game's developers instructed us to control the 3-D rescue ship by sliding our thumbs around the left portion of the screen. Although this setup works fine for Gameloft's Hero of Sparta, it's almost impossible to get the hang of in this video game. Instead of viewing the action from a top down/isometric perspective, ngmoco forces us to guide the spaceship up, down, left and right. This makes avoiding the edges of the mazes a chore because the ship moves erratically. We'd let everything slide if we didn't take damage, but that's simply not the case. Even the slightest of bumps removes health from the ship's energy bar. Now factor in gunfire from enemies, and blowing up becomes as familiar as pressing the Start button.
In order to latch onto those green pods and rescue civilians (each one has name yanked from your contacts list), you need to touch them. Much like avoiding walls, doing this without damaging your ship takes patience and in some instances, plenty of good luck. Actually, we grew so frustrated that most times, we sacrificed the drop ship and bumped into the maze in order to pick stuff up.
To ngmoco's credit, Dropship looks phenomenal, features some imaginative maze designs (Christmas tree, Menorah) and has a healthy number of achievements (rescue a civilian, kill 10 enemies) to unlock, but we can't get over its terrible controls. A quality iPhone game has intuitive controls that take advantage of the phone's strengths. In this case, the developers failed miserably. Dropship has lots of flash, but its without question one of the most disappointing apps we've played.
What's Hot: Tempest-inspired vector graphics, techno soundtrack, lots of cool mazes, furious shooting, achievements, costs .99.
What's Not: Atrocious controls, ridiculously high learning curve.