Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
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Gridrunner is the latest entry in Llamasoft’s Minotaur Project, though this one doesn’t really involve much in the way of minotaurs or ungulates of any sort. No, this is an iOS version of Jeff Minter’s Gridrunner franchise that has spanned the days of the Commodore 64, to appearing on PC in remake form.
The iOS version is essentially a hybrid between Centipede and a Galaga-esque game. Segmented enemies come downward on the board, traveling across the board horizontally before dropping down a level when they hit a wall or obstacle. Each enemy that is killed drops one of those obstacles, that if not destroyed turns into a bomb that falls to the bottom of the stage. Meanwhile, there are indestructible ships on each axis that fire at the player, making for many hazards that the player has to deal with. The Galaga influence is more audiovisual than in gameplay, necessarily.
On iOS, few developers have quite the voice in their games that Jeff Minter has put into games like Gridrunner. There’s a very consistent style, of retro graphics with psychedelic effects and occasionally-absurd sound effects. It’s all here, even if this might be one of the more ‘normal’ titles in the Minotaur Project so far. It’s familiar, but it’s definitely fun. The game also comes with a couple of neat easter eggs: classic versions of Gridrunner, based off of the Commodore 64 and Vic-20 versions. They are available by tilting to each landscape orientation. Seriously.
The controls are my only real issue with the game. The touch controls are confounding, and the movement of the ship feels odd initially, particularly in the way that the ship slides around. This is because the ship is controlled through an invisible dynamic joystick, the center point being whereever the player’s finger is put down. It’s analog as well, so the more the finger slides, the further the player’s ship moves. It definitely requires some acclimation. Playing on the iPhone/iPod is more challenging due to the fact that more of the screen will be blocked. The game is perfect with iCade though, and it feels like a real arcade game.
Gridrunner, much like the rest of Jeff Minter’s games on iOS, is a must-buy. He’s actually one of the few developers that I would buy a game from as soon as I found out it was available, and I’ll keep up with this.