Shoot-’em-ups are so commonplace it takes genuine skill to give them the edge they so desperately need to stand out on the App Store both in aesthetics and in gameplay. So newcomer Games Faction has its work cut out, but fortunately it seems to have paid close (and quite literal) attention to both these factors.
It’s not called Inkvaders for no reason. The graphics boast a beautifully voguish paper cut-out aesthetic – not unlike South Park, but probably more akin to Paddington Bear. The deliberately stiff, stop-frame-style animation supports this comparison perfectly, and it’s hard not to raise a smile at the unique and endearing artwork.
Even the transition between levels upholds this distinctive look, as the screens are ‘peeled’ away, like a sheet of paper from a notepad, while the character is placed on top of the background by the animator’s finger in a way that would make Terry Gilliam hyperventilate.
The gameplay pits you – as a space marine-type hero – against the Martians, in what’s essentially an off-the-shelf 2D side-scrolling shooter. A selection of weapons are at your disposal, with cash and ammo provided by crates dotted around the background that are opened with a tap of the finger. Your limited ammo means you’ll need to switch between weapons as you run, which is also easily managed with a quick touch of the weapon’s icon.
This all comes together to make the controls very simple, requiring, for the most part, just the ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons and a ‘fire’ button. Taking out the Martians is a simple matter of facing in their general direction and mashing the trigger, with some spectacular comic gore splashing about the place as their over-sized brains break free of vein-covered skulls.
The steady action-packed pace is made even more chaotic during brief bonus power-ups, when you’re instructed to “Rush!” – piling headlong into a throng of approaching Martians while your firepower is temporarily increased to kill with a single shot. The moon runs red with Martian blood as you dive boots first into the swarm for a hilarious few moments of xenomorphic massacre.
The weapons quickly become the best kinds mass destruction, with machine guns, bazookas and lasers cutting your alien enemies in twain, making this very much one for fans of games by The Behemoth, or viewers of Adult Swim’s bizarre cartoons.
Rather than jumping, your heroic astronaut has a jet pack, which allows him to hover for as long as his limited fuel lasts. This adds a very interesting dynamic to the gameplay, giving you the opportunity to take to the thin atmosphere and avoid the invaders for a very short moment. It also means you can collect up asteroids and comets, which are traded for guns, ammo and health at the next vending machine.
Topping off the game’s outstanding presentation is the option to create your own playlist from your iPhone’s library. Selections can be made at any time through the pause menu, and although it’s a small matter, it’s an important one that put a cherry on top of the already impressive icing.
So Inkvaders is ultimately a very simple run ‘n’ gun platformer, imbued with enough style and ease of accessibility to ensure it rises high above the many other games in its niche genre. This looks to be pretty much a final version, and there’s definitely nothing on the surface of Inkvaders that need fixing or even tweaking, so expect a red hot arcade blaster to be orbiting your fingers very shortly.
Looks: Looks Fantastic and the style brings a smile to your face
Sound: Great collection of retro space sfx and action packed music
Gameplay: Simple and easy to pick up but difficult to master, a perfect balance
Overall: Solid, well thought out game that will have to going back for more