Developer: Elecorn
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

The list of solid 3D shooters on the iPhone is relatively slim. Many otherwise decent contenders are plagued with awkward control schemes or unimaginative gameplay—and both can easily cripple a game. Caster has an innovative control scheme, a wide variety of weapons, and has plenty of promise—but the difficulty of aiming brings this high-flying title down. The focus of a shooter ought to be shooting, but Caster seems to excel in everything but. Still, it’s definitely worth looking at.

Let’s begin. You’re a magic-wielding soldier—a Caster—sent in to assist the region of Middon, which is under siege by a strange bug-like race known as the Flanx. The first level features a retro-style green grid and introduces you to the controls, but the rest take place in various outdoor settings where you can deform and manipulate the terrain to your heart’s content. The graphics on the whole are good, though not outstanding—you can really see where Caster hits the iPhone’s limitations. (Plus, the ability to deform the terrain probably would take more resources if the terrain was more complicated.)

Controls take a while to get used to, and you’ll either love them or hate them. The right side of the screen controls zooming (via swiping) and firing (double-tap), while the left side controls movement (swiping and dragging) and dashing (double-tap). The jump button at the bottom of the screen is used for jumping and double-jumping. And that’s it. No onscreen clutter, no virtual D-pad. The radar screen in the bottom-right is also used for weapon selection, and the menu button is small and stays out of the way. It took me a while to get used to Caster’s controls, but they’re surprisingly easy to use. Soon, you’re running across the vast expanses of Middon, tugging the camera along as you go, and it feels much more natural than using a D-pad.

img_00281Except, alas, in two instances. First, it’s difficult to run in a straight line. And secondly, aiming is a pain. Sure, it’s easy to hit a tree or a mountain, but what about those teeny little bugs? At least you can fire continuously, but aiming, firing, and moving at the same time is ridiculously difficult. Heck, aiming and firing alone is hard—and those bugs don’t stay still. Some form of auto-lock, however basic, would be much appreciated here.

The game is divided into missions, each with a unique goal. In some, you’re trying to collect energy deposits; others require you to defeat the Flanx. Each mission has its own terrain, too; some take place in dark forests, while others place you in humid lava fields or deserted, acid-swamped factories. No matter where you are, exploration is usually a must, and it’s mostly enjoyable. After each mission, you can upgrade your weapons and skills, so you’ll end up farming the easier levels for credits. There are a total of fifteen levels—which really isn’t enough. If you’re dedicated, beating the game in an hour or two on Casual mode isn’t that much of a feat, and despite the aiming issues, I wanted more.

img_0029In terms of presentation, Caster is decent. Sure, the landscapes look kind of nice…but there are flaws, and they stand out. The Flanx look choppy and out of place in the smooth terrain, and the sound effects grate on my ears. Magical effects are excellent, though, and as a whole, the realm of Middon looks good when you don’t have to see those ugly Flanx.

On the whole, is Caster a bad game? Far from it! It’s actually pretty enjoyable at the easier levels. But the difficulty of aiming ruins the fun factor at later levels. Caster has so much potential: an innovative control scheme, an expansive universe, and some seriously fun weapons. Deforming the terrain is great—you can, for example, kill a bug by blasting the land out from under it and revealing lava. It’s just hard to recommend it as-is. Hopefully, a later update will provide both an easier aiming system and some more missions (the latter is already planned, I’ve heard). If that happens, Caster will be an amazing game.

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