Developer: Seafoam
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★½☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

I’m all for going with simplicity over needless complication when it comes to game design, but there’s an important rule to keep in mind: if you’re going to make a game that’s super simple, it needs to be relentlessly, addictively catchy. The kind of thing someone would ignore a crying baby in favor of. Sure free is an appealing price point, but the experience itself needs to be on-point. Unfortunately, Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole doesn’t really manage to capture that critical, time-evaporating loop of gameplay.

Fire in the HoleFire in the HoleSet on the 8-bit high seas, Fire in the Hole has players defending themselves from an incoming armada of pirate ships using only a single cannon. As the cannon slides back and forth, players tap and hold the screen to launch a cannonball out over the shark-infested waters. Releasing the tap causes the ball to explode, hopefully taking a few freebooting scallywags with it.

And that’s about it. No bonus stages, no power-ups, no variance to the gameplay; just an endless stream of ships and a score counter to track how many you’ve managed to scuttle before being overrun. Certain fancy shots (hitting a target from an extreme distance or taking out multiple ships with one ball, for instance) will net you coins, which can be used to purchase cosmetic changes to the interface. Want to fire projectiles from a pile of bacon and eggs rather than a cannon? You can! But that’s really about it.

Fire in the HoleFire in the HoleOne of the bigger issues is that the ships have such an erratic pattern on their approach and the explosion radius of the cannonballs is so small that it almost feels futile trying to land long shots. When they do happen, it feels more a result of luck than any particular skill. In fact, the approach I tend to find works best is waiting until the pirates are less than halfway away and popping them just before they would land. The cannon slides back and forth fast enough that this seems to generally be a safer (if not especially satisfying) way to play.

But unfortunately, Fire in the Hole doesn’t really provide a lot of satisfaction no matter how you slice it, as tiny cosmetic upgrades alone aren’t enough incentive to keep at it. In its favor, I can say that the music is very crisp, authentically retro, and well executed. Indeed, it’s probably the highlight of the whole affair. But the main offering comes off feeling like a student project to recreate a mini-game segment from some forgotten 8-bit classic that never actually existed.

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