Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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As the famous demotivational poster reminds us (usually alongside a picture of a wage slave toiling over a McDonald's fryer), “Not everyone gets to be an astronaut.”
There are hundreds of reasons why us regular schlubs aren't fit for space travel – I, for one, am incapable of doing long division and tend to puke if both my feet rise a couple of inches off terra firma – but Demolition Lander: Universe by ApexTech provides a particularly good reminder: it's dang hard to pilot one of those crazy lunar-landing capsules without blowing the whole works to Kingdom Come.
Demolition Lander is a beefed-up version of Lunar Lander, Atari's classic module piloting/landing game from 1979. Whereas Lunar Lander requires players to merely find a flat place to land their module (while fighting gravity's pull and the resulting sideways momentum), Demolition Lander is about destruction and exploration as well as safe piloting. It's definitely an ambitious upgrade that cares deeply about its source material, but it's also a good reminder of why capsule-landing games work best as single-screen arcade distractions.
There are several planets to explore in Demolition Lander, each of which contains several multi-screen missions. Players glide across each planet's surface – and, in some instances, below the surface – towards a safe exit.
There are traps galore to contend with, including turrets and mines. Players need to watch their fuel consumption and armor plating, but they're far from helpless: they can hover over an enemy and unleash a barrage of bombs. Bombs can also dig up valuable ore, which funds upgrades.
Upgrading the lander is important as it strengthens the vehicle and improves its stabilization, making it easier to control. It never gets easy to control, however, which is obviously part of Demolition Lander's challenge – but that doesn't stop the player's thumbs from getting sore by mid-level, nor does it cause frustration levels to ease off when the capsule seemingly ignores player input to do its own thing. Firing bombs can be particularly problematic, since players need to disable the module's landing legs before weapons can be used.
Again, Demolition Lander: Universe is ambitious, and the very idea of arming a lunar lander with missiles is pretty attractive. Despite its control issues, there's still pleasure to be found in blowing craters in a planet's surface. Heck, at this point, real-world space exploration will probably only receive more funding if it contains more explosions.