Developer: Mutant Labs
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad 2

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

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mutant Labs clearly set out to make an arcade game with Half-Inch Heist. To that end, they succeeded: this is an intense quarter muncher that will frustrate players at every turn, demanding more money in order to ssee more of the game and to get higher scores.

Only problem is that it’s an iPhone game, not an arcade machine. Whoops.

The goal of Half-Inch Heist is simple: touch the diamond on screen and drag it without letting go, while dodging missiles, enemies, crushing columns, and other obstacles. Bosses occasionally pop up, and the player must remain on their green weak point to damage them, while also avoiding hazards that come at them.

Now, the “without letting go” part is where things get tricky. See, if the player lets go, it’s game over. Touch another part of the screen? Game over. The game is likely iPhone-only for this reason: too many accidental touches happen on the iPad. The game is playable on the iPad, and is a bit easier, but it requires delicate care.

Now, the other problem with being unable to let go is that it makes it impossible to reposition one’s finger in order to not obscure part of the screen, so part of the difficulty comes from external obstruction. For example, the first boss, Airbear (not to be confused with Origin8’s AirBear) can be defeated by staying on its weak point from the very beginning and not moving – it can be defeated before the swarm of bees get to the player. This is apparent on the iPad where there’s less finger obfuscation, but on the iPhone, it most decidedly is not.

Now, the other part of the frustrating equation is that not only is it easy to die, it’s pricey to continue. It costs 300 coins to continue, and coins are hard to come by – a boss will drop about 50 coins, though collecting them all is tricky. So, in-app purchases play a big role here: $0.99 buys 1500 coins, and they’re solely used for continuing, nothing else. It just feels insulting to have this kind of cash-hungry system, even in a game that’s free, because there is little forgiveness shown to players, and a good run can be ended for any silly number of reasons. And I only felt compelled to even consider buying coins out of frustration, not out of enjoyment of the game. It’s not the way to go.

It’s a shame, because Half-Inch Heist can be nerve-wracking in a good way, the chiptune music is intense and a great fit, and I enjoy the pixel art style. With some tweaks to be more user-friendly, I think this could be a challenging-yet-fun game, instead of merely challenging my patience.

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