Don't Look Back
Terry Cavanagh's mobile port maintains much of the original's magic.
Indie developer Terry Cavanagh found himself in a spot of bother with Apple last week for having the audacity to state in his submission that Don't Look Back wasn't just free to download, there was none of that outrageous in-app purchase nonsense disguising the free content. Nice one Terry!
The last Cavanagh game we had our hands on was September's Super Hexagon, a brain-melting fusion of simplistic, one-touch geometrical gameplay with a thumping chip-tune soundtrack. Don't Look Back, on the other hand, is a port of the original game from 2009, reportedly re-purposed for mobiles in just a day.
The story is as simple as the visuals but both are engaging nevertheless. Standing over the grave of his lover, the main character descends into the underworld in order to seek out their spirit and lead it back to safety. What follows is an agonizing platforming journey through the underworld, where an errant jump or encounter with a monster leads to an instant death.
Each screen is, for the most part, a checkpoint within itself and so the formidable challenge is broken down into manageable pieces. You might need to tackle a series of platforms which fade in and out of existence for example, or dodge patterns of lava eruptions while taking shots at devilishly placed enemies.
It's not a long game but it is a playful one that gradually folds gameplay elements together, and while the message of the game may be unspoilably bleak it's one that's worth experiencing for yourself. Visually the game will certainly be a shock to the system for anyone who's experience of gaming doesn't stretch back to the times of the Atari VCS.
Don't Look Back is a wonderful game but the necessarily precise controls haven't quite made the transition to the touchscreen. The buttons themselves are far too small on the iPad at least and a dead-center finger-press is always required, leading to far too many unfair deaths, even in a game that specializes in such things.
Diehard, mobile-owning Cavanagh fans won't think twice about downloading Don't Look Back, and they're quite right to do so. While we can't help but shudder at the thought of playing the teased VVVVV on mobiles, we'd far rather Cavanagh had a chance to acclimatize to touchscreen controls before embarking on what will likely be his most high-profile mobile endeavor.
What's Hot: A brief but mesmerizing and challenging free experience that you've no excuse not to at least try.
What's Not: The controls betray the speedy development of this port.