Developer: Namco Networks USA
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Top down action games are nothing new on the iPhone, and neither are dungeon romps, but for whatever reason, we really haven’t seen a combination of the two. Garters and Ghouls sort of fits into this gap with what seems to be a lovechild of iDracula and Underworlds.

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The game starts with you as the “newly-dead Marie Dupois” set forth on a quest to battle the Thrum. Each level has you going deeper and deeper into the battle, clearing all sorts of various stages of their vile presence. The story is fairly well done, but without an epic setting that would rival Diablo (I mean, how cool is it to go to hell to fight demons!), I didn’t really get too wrapped up in it. All the levels really boil down to is repetitively destroying Thrum portals so no more bad guys can appear.

My big issue with this game is that I’m just not entirely sure of what the intended genre of the game was. As a reviewer, it’s tough to me to figure this one out, because its almost like an RPG, and almost like a shooter, but not quite as good as a full blown version of either. My gut instinct is that the game wants to be an RPG, but there are no truly unique weapons player classes, and there are no character stats (strength, magic, constitution) that you can upgrade. Sure, you can walk into a shop and upgrade your speed, but you are spending randomly dropped money to buy stats instead of using EXP. On the other hand, the game could’ve completely been designed as an action shooter. I do really liked the fact that the controls were well done (I would say well thought out, but the two joystick thing is almost industry standard at this point). The aiming could be a bit easier (you will definitely miss things at point blank range), but it doesn’t detract from the game too much. My problem would be that if the game really was meant to be an action shooter, the game kind of falls short on action and the weapon variety within the levels is fairly weak. Typically, you get two weapons in each level, but there is really no consequence to running out of ammo or worry that you will do so because your base weapon is pretty devastating. With this fear gone, all you have to worry about is firing and running, but the enemies in this one are so slow and dumb that you never really feel like you are in danger.

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Aside from the gameplay and the identity crisis, the graphics and sound are not too bad. I’m testing the game on a 3G, and the animation all works well but is a bit choppy at times. I’m not sure if the choppiness is by design or not though, because once I upgraded my speed, things tended to pick up and seem normal. The sound is your typical rock opera style zombie shooting music, but if that’s not your cup of tea, just put on your own music from your itunes.app.

The game has some flaws, most of which to me are by concept design, but its a fairly fun action romp. If you really liked Alive 4-Ever or Underworlds, or hopefully both, you will probably get a kick out of this one. You’ll certainly wish that there was more action or RPG elements, depending on your genre of choice, but you wont find too many dull moments, which is the sign, to me, that a sub $5 game is worth it. If you want to kill some bad guys, you won’t be too disappointed.

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