In Dead Space everyone can hear you scream on the bus.
Creating the console experience on the iPhone is not an easy thing to accomplish. Firstly there is the limitation of the small screen. Then you have to deal with the controls. Finally you have to overcome the problem of keeping the player interested for an extended period. The iPhone is ideally suited for games that can be played in short bursts, ideally on public transport or some other situation where boredom usually sets in. If you are sitting at home and fancy a heavy gaming session, then the iPhone would surely be your last choice.
There are however a few games on the iPhone that manage to capture the console feeling successfully and give the player a good reason to sit down and play for extended periods. Dead Space from EA is one of those games. Let me explain why.
The first problem, that of the small screen, is simply solved by offering incredibly sumptuous and atmospheric visuals to the game. The player takes on the role of an engineer on a massive space station. They begin by following a rather lengthy tutorial as they commit acts of vandalism on the ship as ordered by the cult of which they are a member. Obviously, things are not as straight forward as it would seem and before long the station is crawling with all sorts of nasties.
The environments, through which the player will be exploring, all look absolutely stunning and the use of shadows amplifies the feeling of terror on which this game plays. They are on a massive space station and could be facing a violent death around each and every corner. The Necromorphs all look suitably scary and menacing, even on the small screen, and manage to maintain the ability to have you jump from the sofa in fear.
The second problem to overcome are the controls. In this particular area, Dead Space both succeeds on an epic level, and also fails to some degree. EA have crammed in a huge number of controls in order to provide the console-esque experience. Moving, aiming, firing, strafing, reloading, changing weapons, spinning around and even melee combat has all been built into the interface without the use of any silly virtual buttons.
Whilst this allows the player to experience the game as perhaps it should be, it is not without it’s problems. The complexity of so many different controls certainly explains the lengthy tutorial, and there is a lot to remember. It could also be noted that the player does, on occasion, find themselves covering quite a large portion of the screen.
To keep the player interested you have a game that is heavy on the action and that will last for around five or six hours for the first play through. Once completed in Easy or Normal, the player can unlock the Hard difficulty that will test their skills and keep them busy for a further few hours. Whilst the story may not be the games strong point, it is certainly enough to keep the player engaged and, when combined with the games’ atmosphere, will keep the player coming back for more.
Dead Space is most definitely one of the best looking iPhone games that I have seen and clearly showcases the capabilities of the Apple handset. It may well be slightly overcomplicated in it’s controls, but EA cannot be faulted for trying to cram in as much as possible. Fans of the Dead Space franchise will get a kick from this entry into the series, which is set between Dead Space 1 and 2. But gamers who have never experienced the adventures of Isaac Clarke before will also find themselves well entertained. Dead Space is possibly the closest thing to a proper console game that can be found on the iPhone. Certainly worth playing.
Dead Space for the iPhone can be found on the App Store for just £3.99