Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Project '88 (Android/iOS)

Every once in a while I dig up some hidden, buried gem on the App Store that really glistens with gaming goodness. The sad thing is that many of these titles, especially the paid ones, will likely fade into obscurity faster than a Tesla blows up when driving over something. As such, I feel it's my duty to share apps like this from time to time, especially those that are chock-full of retro goodness like Project '88.

Routagames' Project '88 is at its core an endless runner, and admittedly doesn't bring much that's new to the genre. Players pilot a very polygonal little ship soaring on a brightly colored track that appears to be mounted in a psychedelic tunnel of sorts. The craft is controlled via the touch screen (or tilt mechanic), similar to Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon, with the addition of a 'jump' feature that allows the craft to flip vertically across the screen to traverse gaps.

There are several selections of procedurally generated tracks to choose from, and one that is hidden until you reach a certain skill level. I still haven't unlocked that yet; a testament to the difficulty level here. It's pretty unforgiving and that makes for a very engaging play experience. It's the 'bullet hell' of endless runners in that it's not necessarily speed that will kill players, but rather, failing to deftly weave through networks of pits or glide across a very thin section of track that wraps around the tunnel.

All of this is backed with some simple, but impressive Jeff Minter-eque pulsating backgrounds and fantastic chiptunes, true to the era of each play mode (e.g., 1988 and so on) Plus, bouncing Amiga 'boing' balls to avoid. Gotta have those. It's also refreshing not to be bombarded with IAP and upgrades - there simply aren't any. Just you, the craft and the challenge.

I'd highly recommend Project '88 to anyone who loves the retro aesthetic, chiptunes, and endless runners - or even to those who just like endless runners, as it's a solid one. Fans of demoscene will especially find something to like in this nifty little package. The price is a bit high by app standards ($2.99/£1.49 iOS, slightly less on Android), but I found it to be very much worth it.

Purchase the iOS version here (from the iOS App Store).
Purchase the Android version here (from the Google Play Store).
4 out of 5

Second Opinion

I have to confess that I wasn't immediately sold on the concept of Project '88, mainly because from the screenshots it looked as though the entire UI was lifted from Super Hexagon. After loading it up for the first time I was even more disheartened as the similarities didn't end there - in addition to the UI, Project '88 also features a strictly only-during-play music formula *and* female voice samples. However, following Peter's recommendation I was willing to give the game a shot.

Let's set the record straight. Project '88 certainly looks like Super Hexagon (Finnish developer Pekka Vilpponen even admits to aping Terry's style over at Touch Arcade) but it doesn't play anything like it. For a start, it's a lot slower paced - meaning that even newcomers to the genre are unlikely to die within the first few seconds of playing (which I suppose could be considered both a good or bad thing, depending on your stance on the masochistic Hexagon series).

With its weaving cylindrical road, Project '88's design bought back memories of playing the recent Atari 8-Bit hit Yoomp!, albeit taken to the next level thanks to the aforementioned clever jump/reverse gravity mechanic and some nifty background effects. The addition of Boing balls and ever-so-nostalgic tracked music modules leaves no doubt in my mind that Pekka has his computing roots in the Amiga scene - which begs the question why did he not consider a port to AmigaOS? Those crazy 'AMIGAAAAAH!' people would have lapped this up regardless of what price tag he chose to put on it!

Talking of ports and whatnot, I ultimately enjoyed Project '88 enough that I would be up for buying a copy to play on a PC or console, if the price remained at a similar level. Although it is the perfect game for short bursts of mobile play, the retro demoscene fanatic half of my personality would just love to play it on a big screen with a decent sound system - much like how I regularly play Super Hexagon side-loaded on the RGCD office Ouya.

J. Monkman