We dive into the latest hybrid App Store game.
Even if you got hopelessly swept up in 2012's greatest mobile craze - that of the genre hybrid game - we doubt you've played anything quite like Abyss Attack. This new game from Chillingo, developed by Deep Byte Studios, fuses together two very unlikely bedfellows - the shoot 'em-up and the endless runner - to create something that feels genuinely different on the App Store.
Here's how it works in practice. Taking control of a small underwater vehicle, you need to journey through a deep ocean, psychedelic playground full of rippling jellyfish, swaying corral, and a whole host of outlandish and destructible creatures. Your ship fires its weapons automatically, and so all you need to worry about is the craft's positioning using simple finger-swipes. Get hit by an enemy, or bump into too much scenery, and you'll lose one of your life hearts. Once you've run out of those entirely, your run's over.
At the moment of destruction, each enemy creature drops a cluster of crystalline gems on the floor which you can hoover up by passing over them. Gather enough of these and you can upgrade your weapons, your ship and your shields, not to mention apply some power-ups which slow down the action a little, for example, or boost your speed. Combined with the game's mission system, which challenges you to reach a certain distance, or kill so many enemies, the end result is a game that will certainly feel very familiar to any runner fan.
It's fun enough, but Abyss Attack's very original premise turns out to be the game's Achilles heel in a way. Without the necessary upgrades, earned over a long time, there are brick walls blocking off progress everywhere. Combine this with boss fights that are placed in very specific positions, and it all starts to feel very repetitive - and more more so than in even the most traditional, textbook runner where there's usually at least some degree of randomization to be enjoyed.
We also found that the game was rather choppy, even on the latest Apple hardware - a pity really when you consider how gorgeous the game's artwork is when it's not in motion. Fortunately the soundtrack saves the atmospheric day very well, produced as it is with a gentle sense of wonder and adventure.
We're left with mixed feelings about Abyss Attack overall. On the one hand, it's an intriguing idea that's more than worth the dollar asking price, at least up until the point where you become a little bored with your meager progress. On the other hand, you're clearly meant to make far more meaningful progress given the mission and upgrade systems, and so a greater part of the game design simply doesn't work. Fans of either genre will certainly enjoy their time with this new hybrid title, but neither camp is likely to be entirely satisfied.
What's Hot:Superb artwork, lovely music and a very original blend of genres.
What's Not:Progress feels very heavily road-blocked, and as a result you'll come to find the experience very repetitive after a short amount of time. The game can also be a little choppy, and as a paid-for title the in-app purchases are too aggressively balanced.