Spooklands – Review

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Platform: iOS, Android
Developer: Luderia
Genre: Arena Shooter
Price: 69p/99c
Release Date: 21st Aug 2014

It goes without saying that Spooklands is a game that aims to impress. You only have to look at the screenshots to appreciate the wildly colourful visuals. In motion, things only look better. The creature design meshes cute with vicious in a fantastic juxtaposition; managing the nigh impossible task of making a heaving mass of eyes and limbs look sweet.

The high class production values certainly don’t end there though. Taking the wonderfully intuitive control scheme seen in Toast Time, Luderia have combined it with frantic arena-based combat. I have to admit that twin-stick arena shooters are starting to repeat on me; having been perfected by games like Minigore and Geometry Wars many years ago, it’s very rare for one outside of Radiangames’ production to impress me at all. Whilst it’s not the most accurate genre placement for Spooklands, it certainly stands out from the majority of games in competition with it.

It all comes down to the simplicity of movement and mechanics. You tap, you shoot. You shoot, you move. That’s mostly it beyond a hold to release a charge attack. Whilst it sounds dangerously close to being a little too basic, combining your means of attacking with your only hope to avoid damage makes for chaos. Beautiful, elegant and heart-pounding mayhem.

Words are terribly inefficient for describing the adrenaline-fueled tapping panic you’ll find yourself in as the difficulty increases steadily. Early lulls had me disappointed at the ease of success but you’ll soon learn to value those calm moments. When Hell breaks lose you’re forced to weigh up whether your shots will put you at more risk than they resolve. Whether you have the time to charge a large axe to clear a line of foes or strumming loose a flurry of smaller shots.

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To me, Spooklands is to the one-touch control method that Tilt to Live is to tilt controls. Every attack will hit its target with pinpoint accuracy and every death is your own failing. You will die a lot, your shots wavering as new and incredibly large creatures are introduced but you’ll also progress between each match. Again, much like Tilt to Live, reaching highscores unlocks new and more impressive power-ups to be collected during gameplay. Just like the shooting inertia, trying to collect them can kill you as often as they help but it exemplifies the risk/reward nature of the game.

To top it all off, there’s not a single glimpse of an IAP, not even an optional one. Social networking features are tucked away in a side-tab without ever being mentioned. No ads pop up to test your patience. Game Centre is well integrated with both leaderboards for each arena and achievements for those that way inclined. All of this is wrapped in a 99 cents price tag which seems so unusual these days for a truly premium experience.

Spooklands can be purchased for iOS here:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/id900650495?mt=8
and Android here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.playluderia.spooklands

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