App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Mixing genres can be tough. Focus too much on one over the other and half the game suffers. Give equal attention to both and run the risk of neither amounting to anything more than “just okay.” 21 Days attempts to blur the line between story-driven graphical adventure and, well, lines, but neither the gritty tale of revenge nor the path drawing gameplay mechanics quite live up to their potential.
Sam Cooper is a former thief who would’ve gone legit if his backstabbing partner hadn’t talked him into one last job. After the unsurprising betrayal Sam finds himself in lockup with only 3 weeks left before his transfer to a maximum-security prison. He’ll have to sneak past guards, fiddle with camera systems, and otherwise connive his way through over 25 levels as he plans his escape. 21 Days uses the same line-drawing mechanic (touch and drag a path from Sam to his target) found in similar iOS games with the added hitch of stealth. Getting spotted is an automatic failure, so it’s important to take the time to analyze guard movements and plan ahead.
21 Days utilizes an impressive visual style that’s both reminiscent of a graphic novel (for character portraits during dialog) and a classic PC adventure game (for the actual gameplay). It really helps to emphasize the feeling of Sam’s tale of revenge, plus it just looks cool. Giving Sam the ability to intentionally make noise in order to draw guards away is also a welcome (and essential) addition to the formula. Of course that doesn’t make getting stuck in a corner with a guard fast approaching any less tense.
Yet for all of 21 Days’ visual flair, the environments are rather barren. There are areas of interest, but the bulk of the game’s hallways are fairly dull to wander through. Controlling Sam can also be a problem at times as his hit box seems a little small, which often leads to unintentionally moving the camera rather than redirecting the escapee. This typically results in getting sent back to the start of the level pretty quickly. Even the story suffers thanks to several awkward moments and interactions that feel simultaneously out of place and shoehorned in to cater to the gameplay mechanics. Seriously, where did Bill even get that radio?
The story, awkward though it might be at times, should be plenty of reason for fans of crime dramas or tales of prison escapes to take notice of 21 Days. I wish I could say the same for the line-drawing puzzle lovers out there, but with none of the features that make other titles in the genre so enjoyable (scores, replayability, responsive controls, etc) it’s just not something I’m willing to recommend. This one is more for the visual novel fans.