iPhone Game Review: Atlantis Sky Patrol
The Atlanteans have seeded the planet with doomsday devices - can you disarm them in time? Use your ship, Sky Patrol, to keep the globe safe in this classic marble shooter wrapped in beautiful art deco packaging.
Once the game loads, the Main Menu offers you some standard options: Play, Options, and Help. Options allows you to change the music and sound effects volumes to your liking and set the sensitivity of the shake to change ball color. Help displays a single screen showing you the basics of gameplay.
Once you begin a game, a more thorough and interactive explanation of gameplay will be given to you in the first level of the game. You'll find that each one of the game's 111 levels is a doomsday device you must disarm to progress to the next level. They are found in a winding path stretching across the globe.
The mechanics of playing Atlantis Sky Patrol are very easy. You have a ship at the bottom of screen that you move back and forth with your finger. It is nicely responsive and moves very smoothly. To shoot a marble, simply lift your finger from the screen and then replace it to move your ship again. Aiming a marble is very precise, a colored beam shows the exact color and path of the marble that will be shot. It is possible to make some really precise shots using this interface. To change marble colors you can shake your phone or just shoot the current ball into empty space.
Each one of the 111 game boards includes 2 parts that you must defeat in order to disarm the doomsday device and end the level. There is the traditional winding path and many of the levels include some really neat twists, turns, and tunnels to add to the challenge. The other half are non-moving marbles set in various places on the board that form the core of the doomsday device. You need to make destroying these a priority since the game will continue to send out more waves of moving marbles as long as there are still static marbles on the screen. However, you cannot neglect the moving marbles either because if they reach the end of the path the level ends immediately.
The difficulty increases as you progress with the inclusion of a number of gameplay elements. Later levels include moving parts that will disrupt your aiming beam or alter its direction in crazy angles. An additional ball color is added to the mix. Paths become more convoluted and include tunnels that keep you from shooting marbles as they move closer to the end, and the marbles also begin moving more quickly towards the end. With the "core device" marbles, in later levels they become shielded every few seconds so that you cannot shoot them and eventually they take two hits each to destroy.
Despite all of these mechanisms to increase the difficulty, I did not need to repeat any one level more than one retry in order to defeat it. So if you find marble games easy, this will likely hold true for Atlantis Sky Patrol; however, if you find them challenging then all of these together will likely provide you with some truly difficult gameplay.
Another neat gameplay element is the ability to permanently increase your ship's abilities by spending coins earned during each level. Coins are acquired by making matches and for completing a level. There are also bonus levels included throughout the game where you can earn a really nice sum of coins. Between each level, you'll have the opportunity to spend coins on improving the speed at which the ship shoots marbles, your gravitational pull on gathering falling coins and powerups, the rewinding speed of the bonus ball, and on disruption which increases the time for new waves of marbles to arrive.
As you make matches, various powerups will be available for pickup. These can definitely help you out of a tight spot if the rolling marbles are getting too close to the end. They take various forms including explosions that destroy a large number of marbles in an area, a beam that destroys marbles in its path, a rewind that makes the marbles move backawards, or a stop that freezes marbles in place among others.
When you defeat a level, you unlock the level that follows it; however, if you fail a level, you are not penalized and can simply try again.
The graphics in Atlantis Sky Patrol are very nice and polished looking and have an art deco theme throughout the game. All of the animations are very smooth and crisp.
The only issue I had with the graphics were the game freezing when there was an explosion or during the bonus round when a lot of items were being destroyed. This occurred after a fresh reboot of my iPhone 3G. The freezes were only momentary and thus did not affect overall gameplay, but they did affect the pacing of the game. I really recommend rebooting your device before playing an extended session of Atlantis Sky Patrol.
The sound effects and background music are both well done and polished. They really help give the game a very dynamic feel.
Unfortunately, there is one problem with the sound that really needs to be addressed. If you have the mute button on your iPhone set to silent, this game still makes sounds. This is really not a good thing if you are expecting to be able to play the game where you don't want to be heard. The sounds for many of the special effects would start up and play for a second and then suddenly cut out. I hope this gets fixed in a future update.
-polished graphics - game is very nice to look at
-polished sounds/music - both are nice and add to the gameplay experience
-111 levels in story mode
-you can resume at the last level you have not completed but have unlocked
-lots of powerups and additional difficulty elements to add depth to the game
-earn coins to buy permanent upgrades to your ship
-graphical freezes with lots of action occurring
-sound plays even when mute button is on
-game auto-starts when a level is loaded - I would prefer the player have to click "Go" or perhaps touch their ship for the level to begin
-for some, the game could be too easy
-no achievements or trophies
Overall, Atlantis Sky Patrol is a nicely polished marble shooter. The graphics and sounds are well done, and the whole game is a pleasure to play. The mechanics of shooting the marbles from your ship and aiming are very good.
There are a couple of areas that need some improvement. Most significantly to me is the playing of sounds while the phone is muted since, I'm sure, there are times where you're going to want to play a game where you don't want to bring any attention to yourself. Another area is depth or replayability.
As you are playing, there are no trophies or achievements awarded so once you've finished the game, you don't have that much impetus to go back and replay it to see if you can earn any trophies or achievements you missed last time around. There is also no non-story mode which would be neat to use with your upgraded ship and where you could play for points.
On the whole, though, I really recommend this game if you like marble shooters or want to try one out. I really enjoyed the artwork and whole presentation of the game; for me it just had a couple of areas needing a little work to make it awesome.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -4.5- very nice and polished looking
Sound: -3.5- polished sounds, but sounds play with mute enabled
Controls: -4.5- very responsive, clear targeting mechanism
Gameplay: -4- fun and dynamic, but some may feel the game is too easy
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Try to get rid of the static "core" marbles as soon as you can to limit the number of waves you face; otherwise, you may be trying to complete a level for awhile.
-Change marble colors immediately if you're holding onto a color you can't play and don't waste time waiting for a color in the moving string to come around. Each second you wait brings the string closer to the end point.
-Max out the speed and bonus gathering upgrades. Both of these are highly useful.
Developer: Big Fish Games
Release Date: August 10, 2009
Buy Game: iTunes App Store
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