Take Borf wherever you go in this wonderful version of the arcade classic.
"Call me Ace, huh?"
Hotshot space hero Ace has a couple of problems. Number one, his cohort (and would-be girlfriend) Kimberly was kidnapped by the evil Commander Borf. Number two, Borf has the Infanto Ray, a gun that can make anyone young again with a simple zap, and he shoots Ace with it. So not only does our hero have to contend with saving the world from Borf's madness, but he must also cope with occasionally turning into a (gulp!) teenager named Dexter.
Thus goes the story of Space Ace, a laser-disc game that came out in arcades back in 1983 and made the rounds on DVD and other consoles. Digital Leisure has now brought it to the iPhone, complete with its classic three difficulty settings (Cadet, Captain and Ace) and a bright red LED score in the corner of the screen. It may be a no-frills port, but it's a damn good one.
Instead of directly controlling Ace, you guide him through a series of stages, making the right moves based on areas that flash on the screen. Screw up, and you're treated to a humorous death animation, such as Dexter getting vaporized or Ace falling to his imminent doom. Once you complete a certain amount of stages, you reach the final showdown with Borf, complete with a lowering lava pit (with Kimberly on it), electrical fighting poles and, as expected, the dreaded Infanto Ray.
What's great about Space Ace is the various difficulty settings. Rookies who have no idea how a game like this works can go right into Cadet, where their moves appear across the on-screen keypad before they press them. You can also turn on Infinite Lives, although that robs you of learning the moves through trial and error. The best difficulty setting, however, is Ace. Here, not only do you lose the hints, but you're also treated to extended action sequences not found in the previous modes. There are also alternate paths to follow, in case you want to complete the stage as the hapless, accident-prone Dexter.
Controls consist of an on-screen directional pad and fire button. They react as expected, but we're happy that the designers included the "accept" and "failure" sound effects from the original game.
Digital Leisure also did remarkable work porting the game to the iPhone. Being a laser-disc based game, we were worried that it would feature below-average audio and video, but they did a marvelous job. You can see every frame of Don Bluth's animation in all its glory, from Borf's ridiculous taunts ("Turn back, creep!") to the glow emulating from Ace's roller skates.
Oh, and if you have headphones, use them for Space Ace. The music, sound effects and voice acting deserve praise. It's digital quality all the way.
The only downside to Space Ace is there's not much to it. Once you beat the game on Ace difficulty, all you can do from there is read a brief snippet about it and see what's coming next from Digital Leisure. (Mad Dog McCree? Ugh, really?) There is a scoreboard option, but it's local only, and you can only score so many points in the game.
No, it's nothing new, but the fact that Digital Leisure got Space Ace to work on the iPhone at all is a stunning achievement. It looks and sounds awesome, and plays just like the original. If you're a fan, you have to get it. Borf insists. "You cannot win!"
What's Hot: Exceptional audio and video, impressive touch-screen controls, various difficulty settings.
What's Not: No extras outside the main game, an infinite lives option makes it too easy to cheat, useless scoreboard.