iPhone/iPad App Review: Project 83113

Traditional platform games are few and far between these days, with the majority of titles claiming to be platform games usually turning out to be a mishmash of genres, as if leaping from platform to platform, collecting goodies and fighting baddies isn’t quite enough.

Times have changed, obviously, and we’ve got Sonic to thank for reinventing the platform game as a high-speed bounce-about where you don’t always know exactly what’s going on.

Many developers have found it difficult to pull off decent iOS, platform games, as so much of the gameplay depends on executing pixel-perfect moves, something which a touchscreen control system makes even more of a challenge. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any though, and many wear their difficulty as a badge of honour.

NCsoft’s Project 83113 is an iOS platform game with a splash of action, and a dash of speed running, recalling games such as League of Evil 2. There are even shades of shoot ‘em ups such as Espgaluda II, as your character’s health is replenished by with glowing goodies left behind by enemies you destroy, which are picked up automatically.

You play Belle (have a look at those numbers in the title again), a genetically engineered creature whose mission is to save humanity from Machine, a ruthless overlord controlling the human race. You’re inside Ground Zero, Machine’s base, and through a mix of running, jumping, gliding and shooting, you’ve got to defeat him.

Belle is a cute, pink and purple, cat/squirrel hybrid with six appendages; two for running and four for brandishing multiple weapons. She targets baddies and fires her guns automatically, leaving you to control her movements.

This is done with simple swipes across the screen. One to the left or right gets Belle moving, while an upward swipe sees her leap in the air. Hold the screen for a moment and she comes to a halt, or if she’s in mid-air, she glides to help make it over larger gaps. As the game progresses, you’ll learn how to double jump, dash and slide too.

At first, not being able to control the firing of weapons sounds like a bit of a let down, but once you get started, and the screen is filled with stuff to avoid, jump over or slide under – shooting enemies falls way down the list of things to do, and you’ll be glad it’s sorting it out for you.

There is a smart bomb to help get you out of the toughest situations, and each weapon has a special attack – activated by tapping an enemy – but this drains your energy each time it’s used.

Project 83113’s level design is good, and all the platform staples are present, from undulating terrain and disappearing walkways, to bottomless pits in which to fall. Each represents at least 15 minutes gameplay, and there are several much-needed checkpoints along the way. Perhaps the visual design is a little uninspired, but Belle’s acrobatics and the brightly coloured enemy fire make up for this.

The game consists of four worlds in total, each with at least nine levels inside, plus there are bonus levels featuring a little robot charged with recovering blueprints for new weapons.

What’s interesting here is that while the regular game is action-packed and exciting to play, the robot’s bonus levels are more considered, and are far closer to the traditional platform gaming experience. I could have done with a few more.

As mentioned earlier, platform games suffer due to the touchscreen’s inadequacy as a control system, so how has Project 83113’s innovative swipe and auto fire solution worked out?

It’s almost there, but not quite, and does get very frustrating when the action is at its most frantic. Here’s an example: You’re leaping through the air to a small platform, on which you’ll need to stand still for a moment, otherwise you’ll jump headlong into a nasty. To do this, you need to tap and hold, but should you do this while Belle is still in the air, you’ll glide over the platform and disappear into oblivion. The timing is almost impossible, as Belle will always walk a few steps before reacting to your stop command when she lands, also resulting in a life-ending fall.

In the heat of battle, the swipe method just isn’t varied enough to avoid enemy fire, leap platforms, boost through trouble or stop and shoot in quick succession. It just gets too confusing. It’s nearly there, and proof can be seen on the robot levels, where the controls work superbly. It’s the game that doesn’t fit with the control system, rather than the other way around.

Then there’s the weapon upgrades. You can try to find tokens hidden on each level to upgrade your guns, but they’re almost impossible to spot, let alone collect once you do find one. Why make it so difficult? Because you can use in-app purchases to buy them, that’s why. It’s so brazen, that it really spoils the game.

All in all, Project 83113 is a well-animated, often frantically paced running platformer, with some cool comic strip interludes that confirm the care and attention that has gone into it. At £0.69 it’s good value, as there are several hours of gameplay here, but you will experience some frustration due to the controls and the lack of weapon upgrades (without paying more, anyway), so just be prepared.

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