This week I found myself doing something I've never done before with an iPad. Playing a game, not to pass time, but because it was fun, frightening and I wanted to see what was going to happen next.
Gaming on the iPhone and iPad is for me a diversion, something I do to take the edge off of flying or kill the moments while waiting in an office. It's certainly never been something I go out of my way to do. At least not until now.
This week I found myself forgoing my DS, my PSP, my consoles, instead spending my free time laying in bed, or sitting at a chair, earphones tucked into my ears, bent over the iPad trying not to die.
In Dead Space HD, which sells for $10, you take on the role of an engineer, code named Vandal, recruited by the Church of Unitology to wreak a bit of havoc in the sprawl. Shortly into your first mission Vandal realizes that what's he's doing is unleashing a Necromorph infection on the Sprawl, the Saturn city featured in Dead Space 2. They story is a table-setter for Dead Space 2, which hits consoles and the computer today.
As with the console games, you play Dead Space HD controlling an engineer decked out in a RIG, the shielded suit and helmet worn by the original Dead Space's Issac.
There are quite a few similarities between the iPad and console versions of the game. Most of your stats, like health and ammo, are displayed on the RIG. The game is played from a slightly zoomed in third-person perspective and the sound design and audio in the game is spectacular. The game also includes the ability to upgrade weapons and your RIG.
Played on an iPad, much of the issues of view-blocking fingers aren't present. While you do need to touch and swipe to play, the screen is so much bigger than the iPhone, your hands don't really get in the way.
You touch and move your finger around on the left half of the screen to control where Vandal is looking and the right half to control where he is walking. Melee attacks are performed by swiping on the screen when directed. When you tap the screen Vandal brings up his weapon, tapping again fires it. You can choose to control the fire modes of weapons either by tilting your iPad or by touching on the number floating below the drawn gun. You reload by touching the ammo indicator.
I found the controls on the iPad almost always dead on, and rarely the sort that blocked my view or frustrated me. Occasionally, I did have an issue activating Vandal's stasis field, which can slow enemies down, but it was fairly rare.
As with Dead Space, the key to playing Dead Space HD successfully is to strategically dismember your enemies. You don't have to sever limbs with the plasma cutter, but it makes taking a creature down much easier.
I think it's this need to carefully place your shots that makes this game work so well on the iPad when so many other shooters have failed. Because you'll rely so heavily on the stasis field and your aim, the game's different pacing means you won't be running and gunning, something the iPad just can't deliver.
The games graphics, while certainly not up to the standards of the PC, PS3 or Xbox 360, are still fairly impressive and the audio is astounding. Played with headphones, the game's eerie music and sounds are guaranteed to freak you out a bit.
I've nearly wrapped up my first run through of the game, a game that takes hours not minutes to complete, and I'm looking forward to my second playing, this time at an unlocked, harder setting. I may even play a third time to try and earn the speed run achievement given if you play through the game in two hours or less.