APP OF THE DAY: Dead Space review (iPad 2 / iPad / iPhone)

On the whole, the App Store is awash with cuddly, sweet, garishly coloured applications, featuring characters that you'd rather hug than dismember. And even when you're asked to commit some kind of genocide - usually on the pig population - they laugh about it, chortling away as you turn them into gammon.

So, it's a welcome change when there's a game that just so happens to cram as much gore, misery and darkness onto an iDevice as it can. And has the unnerving talent to scare the willies out of you, your family and your entire postcode at the same time. Plus, because of EA Mobile's Easter promotion, it's currently only 59p...

Dead Space

Format
iPad 2 / iPad / iPhone / iPod touch
Price
£0.59p (for EAster)
Where
iTunes (iPad 2 / iPad), iTunes (iPhone / iPod touch)

The first Dead Space game on console was somewhat of a sleeper hit. To begin with, it was originally intended to be for the first Xbox console (sans 360). But, because of the many delays along the way, its hype had faded by the time of release, and if it wasn't for word of mouth from gamer to gamer, it may never have created any kind of fan base. We certainly wouldn't have seen a sequel, and definitely wouldn't have been treated to what is the most frightening game available on an iDevice.

At its core, Dead Space is a survival horror game, featuring cunning use of ambient darkness and enough cinematic jumps and bumps to make it possibly the scariest experience you could have with an iPhone or iPad. At times, it's so tense that it's hard to play it for a particularly long period, and while EA Mobile advises that you wear headphones for the best experience, that may be just a step too far for some. As it is, those with a particularly nervous disposition would be well advised to keep a spare pair of underwear to hand.

At Pocket-lint, we've always been massive fans of the console versions of the franchise, so it is highly commendable that the plotline for the app edition is completely new. You don't get to play as Isaac Clarke - the hero of the father titles - but as Codename: Vandal, who has been sent to a mining station to sabotage it on behalf of a bunch of religious zealots.

Of course, your actions end up releasing a swarm of Necromorphs and the whole thing goes tits up. Cue creepy beasties jumping out at you when you least expect it. And, even, sometimes when you do expect it, although it's still likely that you'll leap from your seat.

Although 90 per cent of the action is viewed from a third-person over-the-shoulder camera angle, the control method has more in common with EA's first-person shooters, such as Battlefield. The left-hand side of the screen controls movement, the right, eyeline. A series of taps, swipes and, even, screen tilts make up the rest. EA has even addressed certain players' wishes in a recent update, so there's also a reverse axis option.

Obviously, like most touchscreen games, it takes a bit of getting used to controlling the main character - especially when suddenly pounced upon by a Necromorph - but we've found it smooth and easy to control.

Fans of the Dead Space series, and even the survival horror genre in general, will be right at home with the gameplay, which is harder to explain than get to grips with. And while there's certain puzzle elements to be found along the way through the infected mining station, it mainly boils down to creeping about and pooing yourself when something flies at you from the dark. Oh, and shooting stuff with a variety of engineering implements... That's quite important too.

Graphically, Dead Space for all iOS devices is brilliant, with finely crafted tones and aesthetics, and is as close to a console experience as you can get. However, it's even better on the iPad 2, as the game is one of those that has been optimised for the new generation of Apple's tablet. The extra power of its new graphics processor is used to great effect on, er, great effects.

In fact, if you're the proud owner of an iPad 2, this has to be on your essentials list. Although, even if you're not, it's been discounted to 59p for the whole of Easter for tablet and phone formats, so there's no excuse to miss out. Might cost you a bit more in laundry bills, mind.



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