Developer: Anthony Mangione
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.4
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

PSI – Submarine Combat is a roguelike that bears quite a few similarities to FTL: Faster Than Light. Anthony Mangione, the game’s creator, even references the space-sim explicitly in the description for this game, remarking that PSI is “a love letter to FTL.” Although it does indeed share quite a few similarities to that fantastic game, there are just too many things wrong with PSI to make it anywhere near as enjoyable as its inspiration.

photo 5 (20)In PSI, players take command of their own submarine, which they then pilot around the deep sea where they encounter enemies, armories, and other underwater points of interest. Each play session lasts as long as players can keep their ship in working order, with the focus of the game being centered around combat and other precarious scenarios that put the ship in danger. Each playthrough of PSI is randomized to keep things feeling fresh, but also to keep players on their toes.

Anyone that has played FTL should be very familiar with PSI‘s base gameplay structure, as the two are virtually identical. The similarities start to diverge from there though, and most of the differences are to the game’s detriment. Most notably, it feels very cluttered and its user interface is unintuitive and hard to look at.

photo 2 (23)Beyond struggles with the UI, PSI is a bit hard to control, its menus are difficult to read, and some of its systems feel poorly explained. All of these issues make PSI hard to play, even though it otherwise does a pretty solid job of interpreting the FTL formula.

The lack of clarity is made even more painstakingly clear in combat, which can’t be paused like in FTL. I found myself being destroyed without really knowing how my ship was holding up because I didn’t have time to search the screen for a hull indicator. Other times, I would try to adjust one of my ship’s systems only to learn I needed to move crew there, which is such an arduous process in the first place (due to unclear crew selection controls) that I’d be defeated before I could do much of anything.

Creator Anthony Mangione does note in the description for PSI that this game is a work in progress, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will improve. The idea of an underwater FTL is a very appealing one to me, but this game just isn’t there yet. Only time will tell if PSI will become a suitable love letter to FTL, but for now, I’d steer clear.


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