Developer: Northway Games
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.10
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Though the gorgeous Deep Under the Sky first appears to be a game about hitting distant targets, the truth is that it is a game about timing. Tapping will cause your sessile jellyfish to launch a spore along a fixed trajectory with a fixed intensity. After launching your spore, your only input is to tap once again, and it is these subsequent taps that form the heart of the gameplay.

IMG_0716Depending on the level it may cause your projectile to change course, or accelerate, or engage in new physics. The challenge is to time your subsequent taps to indirectly maneuver your spore around the stage in an effort to hit all of the other immobile jellyfish. Subsequent attempts benefit from a dashed line that shows your previous trajectory, so that you can zero-in on the precise moment you need to tap again. In addition to your objective targets, there are two stars per stage, each of which represent even more challenging goals for you to attempt. Once each jellyfish has been spored you will be awarded points based on the number of attempts made and stars earned, and then it’s on to the next stage.

Truly worth mentioning are the visuals – they are striking and really quite beautiful. Deep Under the Sky‘s world is one of lights and textures, of stark contrasts and a sort of organic brightness which I found deeply appealing. The soundtrack is good as well, adding ambiance – sometimes subtle, sometimes engaging, but always welcome.

Unfortunately, the presentation is far and away its greatest strength. I don’t want to equivocate here – Deep Under the Sky is a very pleasurable gaming experience. My main issue with it is that it lacks any sense of longevity or freedom.

IMG_0747In other games of this type, where one is trying to hit a far-off goal with a projectile, generally the challenge comes from finding a winning combination of trajectory and velocity. In Deep Under the Sky, because your only choice is when to initiate a new action, the truth is that all you’re doing is lining up the same shot again and again, trying through trial and error to figure out when you need to tap the screen to move your projectile toward your target. You don’t get to choose how far it travels or along what route, as even these secondary actions are pre-determined. And what all this means is that there is essentially only one best way to solve any given level. Unlike other games that encourage you to try new tactics on replays, Deep Under the Sky is restrictive enough that, once you beat a level, you never really need to go back.

All that said, it’s still a good game with great visuals, engaging music, and perfectly adequate gameplay. But its fixed nature and extremely finite gameplay choices mean it will be a temporary part of your collection at best, and will not likely be revisited after an initial playthrough.


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