Friday, April 17, 2015

Game Review: Dead Space Mobile (Android)

I was planning on doing a full on review for Dead Space Mobile, but the more I thought about it, I felt that I was too close to this story and franchise.  If you've been reading our miniscule particle of the internet, you'll know that I love the first Dead Space game, which I came to five years after the rest of the world.  After finishing the game, I wanted to consume everything in the Dead Space universe although I was a little worried about the touch screen control scheme when I heard there was a mobile game.

Let me get this out of the way before I start gushing.  The touch screen controls work.  There were a number few times when I couldn't get Vandal (the main protagonist) to run, possibly because of the grease/sweat that found its way to the screen causing my thumb to slide or much up the contact.  I also chalk it up to the point of my thumb, as to its face only being in contact with the invisible directional pad.  It took some getting used to, but that is really my only criticism.  The point is, Dead Space Mobile is a great game.

"In Your Hands." Eh, eh!  Now that's, comedy.
Now, why I think it's a great game, but first some context.  You play as an engineer with the code name Vandal (given by a voice over the radio whom you are forced to take orders from through a series of events), is a recent convert to the Church of Unitology and is employed as an engineer on Titan Station (aka The Sprawl) prior to the events of Dead Space 2.

Being on a mobile device, I knew that the graphics were not going to be PC/console quality, but for a mobile game, the graphics looked good with smooth animations, the sound quality was crisp when it needed to be and muffled when it was supposed to be.  The only other negative thing I really have to say (aside from my sweaty palms) was a graphics/engine glitch that happened in the end of the game that I will get to later.

What I really want to talk about is how the game messed with the player in a way that I haven't felt since Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, but in a less fun but not less entertaining way.  In Eternal Darkness, you had a visible sanity meter and you immediately knew (in most cases) that the game was messing with you.  Dead Space Mobile does not have a meter and all of the sanity events are programed to happen at a specific time and place.  Some of the events happen for a specific amount of time while others are triggered by your location and last until you leave that location.

Take the above screenshot for example.  Here the character Vandal is walking through a medical wing and I notice this other person on the other side of the glass.  I see them moving when I move and I think that it's a reflection, but it doesn't line up with where I am.  And, when I move, the character/reflection moves in the opposite direction.  That is it.  That is all that happens.  You can circle the window all you want and the reflection will always be there moving in the opposite direction, but nothing will happen.  It wasn't so much scary as it was confusing, intriguing and a little unnerving.

Another event happened when I passed through a door into a "plus" shaped room.  Upon looking around with only a single bloodied corpse, I noticed that where once there was only one corpse, three others had appeared.  Additionally, the door I came through had disappeared and was replaced by another corpse with "TAKE US" scrawled in blood above the body.  After taking out a couple of necromorphs in the room (one at a time), the room went dark and I found myself standing outside of the door I thought I had just entered.  It had been all in my head.  No sound cues to let me know that the bloodied room had been an illusion.  Just a shake and a holding of the head by Vandal.

There was another instance while walking down a hallway and directly under where I had my right thumb, the one that controls the aiming and firing of your weapon, a grotesque "evil" looking face faded on/into the screen.  When I noticed this visage, I pulled my right thumb away as if there was something physical on the screen for a few seconds before remembering that it was only an image and nothing physical that could actually do me harm.  And then I thought I was about to be ambushed by one or 73 necromorphs, but no.  Nothing came for me.

There was even a Lost Woods section while trying to get to Point B.  Unless you were to follow your RIG's locater mechanism (follow the glowing line projected onto the floor), you will walk around in circles, entering the same rooms even when going in a straight line.  When this is used in The Legend of Zelda, it somehow makes sense, that the forest is keeping you from finding your way to Point B.  In Dead Space Mobile however, I got the feeling that the ship was not trying to manipulate me (a la Event Horizon) but that this was all happening in my (Vandal) head.  To an observer, I'm sure that I would be seen walking through one door, turning around then come back or just walking around in circles in the same room.  It was very unsettling.

There was another instance where I walked through a door and all of a sudden I was somewhere else, off ship.  I walked forward as far as I could, thinking that the hallucination would eventually pass, but it didn't.  So I turned around the way I came and went back through the door, only to find that I was now on the other side of the hallway that I entered, as if I had walked in a straight line the whole time.

The only other negative thing that I alluded to happened during the boss fight (of all times and places).  About a minute into the fight, something emanated from the boss towards Vandal, but it was looked more like a smear of pixels and it didn't move so much as it shimmered.

By the end of the fight, almost half of the screen was being obscured by whatever glitch this was that kept up its fleshy colored shimmering undulations.  It was very distracting and if I hadn't just spent the last 30 minutes to get there, I would have turned the game off to restart the chapter (12:12).  Thankfully the glitch left enough room for me to be able to attack the boss' obvious glowing yellow puss filled weak points.

I should note that I played the game on whatever the equivalent of "Easy" is since I wasn't sure about the control scheme before starting to play, plus I just wanted to experience the story with just a the right amount of "Oh shit I'm going to die, I'm going to die."  There were still quite a few times that thought I was going to die.

So there!  I can't recommend Dead Space Mobile enough if you are in the market for a survival horror game in the truest sense of the term.  The game is reasonably priced (I happened to buy it when it went on sale) for having 12 chapters which take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on your desire to explore.  There is no saving aside from finishing a chapter, which might be a turn off to some people, but it was nice to know that with each chapter's length being fairly consistent, I knew how much time I could invest if I wanted/needed a half hour to kill.

Speaking of killing. . .
Now it is on to Dead Space 2, for which I am eagerly awaiting the same level of craftsmanship when it comes to "sanity effects," something I felt where the first game a bit lacking.

And Life We Joyfully Drink

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