reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC games
Price: $ 19.95 Reviewed November 2003 by Tony Peak
Anthelion is definitely an action shooter
if there ever was one. The 16 game missions focus mainly
on blowing something or somebody up. There’s not much,
if any, thinking required here... It’s basically “This
is your target and here’s your weapon… have fun.” And
fun it is, though you won’t be making any deep strategies
or detailed plans.
95% of the game is dogfights with other
fighters, and the vast majority of them boil down to three
basic strategies: 1) Tail them and destroy. 2) Use a missile.
3) Both pilots fly head on, firing until one is shot down.
The third popped up by far the most often for me, and unfortunately
this is rather strange. Your shield and weapons will make
short work of even three enemies at once on the normal difficulty
setting, and not much harder on the higher settings. Heck,
you have enough shields to just ram the enemy, destroy the
ship, and keep on flying. The shield regenerates mighty quickly,
so you’ll be at full power again before you even spot
the next fighter. It’s not to say the game’s
a cakewalk, it’s frustratingly difficult at times… but
you certainly have the upper hand.
Between the missions comes a nice storyline
told via email communications with your fellow pirates. The
story isn’t exactly epic, but PDAmill did a very convincing
job of creating a small window into the Anthelion universe.
You pretty much start right smack in the middle of things,
and the conclusion is more or less the end of the chapter,
than the book. All in all, the email greatly enhances the
storyline over simple scrolling text narration. Since there
are no cut scenes, the entire story comes from radio chatter
and these emails. The actual missions themselves range from
quick 2-minute runs to 7-minute affairs that could desperately
use a checkpoint.
If the emails have one flaw, it’s
that they try to be overly trendy. One of your wingmen will
frequently use terms such as ‘awesome’, ‘dude’, ‘skillz’,
and various emoticons. Are these pirates, or kids on AOL?
It’s just plain out of character with the game. Other
times you’ll receive spam messages, as parodies of
current real life, spam schemes to the tune of the Anthelion
universe. What’s more, there’s absolutely no
way to reply to any email you receive. Multiple choice responses
could have done so much for player involvement in the story.
I truly feel both from playing the game
and from comments made by the lead programmer, that this
game was made for button control. The button-based control
is quite nice if you have a decent key layout and d-pad on
your device. It felt quite solid on my Axim X5. Throttle
control may be a bit clumsy, but it’s manageable. Personally,
I would have liked “target enemy” to have defaulted
to “Target next enemy”. But it’s a minor
complaint. Stylus control is included, but it honestly seemed
There’s a lot of good things to say about the graphics and sounds
in Anthelion. The ships and bases are all rendered very convincingly,
from great distances or right up close. The HUD does its job well, and
does little to get in the way. You can truly feel the sense of motion
and distance as you travel and circle, yet the radar makes it very hard
to get lost.
Anthelion sounds very clear and high quality.
From the buzz of the lasers to the explosions of the ships,
it all sounds convincing. Jaybot’s music is back in
force, and provides a pleasant and mood setting background
to the fun. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as distinctive
as past titles such as Snails or Gamebox
Solitaire, but it’s definitely an entertaining
space score to keep things flowing.
In the end, Anthelion boils down
to an arcade shooter with wonderfully rendered 3D graphics
in high frame rate supported by a powerful 3D gracphic
engine. Even though the game has an above average story,
the game play is fun, exciting and challenging at times.
Anthelion does a great job of capturing the fun of the
dogfight while avoiding the more dull and tedious missions
of most space shooters. While there’s room for improvement,
I truly feel PDAmill has given us a shooter that’s
both entertaining and easy to enjoy.
ARM & XScale
Playing Hints and Tips
When using guided missiles, be sure to lock onto
your target. The crosshairs will turn yellow if you keep the enemy
in your sights, then red to show you have a lock. Fire, and it will
chase the enemy. The smaller rockets usually take 2 or 3 to destroy
a ship, so keep tracking and firing. This works best when chasing
an enemy from behind or the side.
It's good to get in the habit of locking on an
enemy, even if you plan to use lasers. Not only is the targeting
information on the HUD helpful, you'll also get a targeting box showing
you which direction the target is currently in.
Don't forget to lead your shots when using lasers.
If the enemy ship is moving, you must fire ahead of the ship to connect
When chasing an enemy that's close to your ship, slow down on the throttle
to gain sharper turning.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
There may be a few pixilation problems,
but that’s to be expected considering the hardware. Frame
rate was quite solid in the version I played, with the occasional
hiccup if you got too close to an afterburner but otherwise
smooth. The GUI in the between mission emails is exceptional.
Sound is absolutely rich and clear, as
one would expect from PDAmill and Jaybot. A good range of effects
nicely mixed with the background music, and all very fitting
with the game. I would have enjoyed a more distinctive tune
The only thing better than a dogfight
in space, is a whole heck of a lot of them. If you agree with
that statement, you’ll have a lot of fun with Anthelion.
There’s never a shortage of things to shoot, and the
story keeps one following along with the mind as well. It’s
not the greatest variety, but it is indeed fun.
Unfortunately, the entire game is 100%
linear. There are no choices to make, no paths to take. This
hurts replay quite a bit. It’s also very hard to play
on the go, both because of the level of attention it requires.
The difficulty of certain missions may make one retire from
the pirate life early, but it’s worth seeing it through.
The bright side is I believe multiplayer play may be planned
for a future version.