Developer: Digital Leisure
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★★
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★★
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆
Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Starting Space Ace up for the first time brought back a flood of memories of walking through the arcade as a kid watching people play this. My mom wouldn’t let me spend much money on games (didn’t see the wisdom of that then…) so I longingly watched the story unfold depending on the skill of the players at the time. Captivating and entertaining, Space Ace was a classic and it being on the iPhone platform brings Don Bluth’s storytelling to a new generation.

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Gameplay
Starting the game you have several settings to customize your gaming experience. From beeps, handedness, and size of the controls to the added bonus of infinite lives, Space Ace aims to please right out of the gate. I was especially surprised to find the game trailer included in the app. Pressing the ‘attract’ button on the home screen plays the movie and introduces you to the story of Dexter/Ace, Kimberly, and the evil Dorf (not to be confused with Dorf on Golf).

You’re immediately thrust into action as Kimberly falls from a cliff into Dorf’s tractor beam taking her to his ship. Dexter bursts into action as lasers begin flying and trying to destroy him. Deftly he navigates through the perilous obstacles trying to kill him to make it to his ship. The rest of the story entails his battles with the various creatures he must pass or destroy to save the girl and defeat his arch-nemesis.

Space Ace is not a traditional video game as you think of it. Instead of controlling the character through various means, the player is given visual and/or audio cues to move Dexter or have him power up or shoot his laser gun. This game is all about helping him navigate through the dangers he encounters. Controls are overlaid on the screen and at the appropriate times you tap one of four directional arrows, or a yellow button to power up or fire your gun. You can choose small or large controls depending on your preference. I found the large controls to be more natural to the game as they were on the top or sides of the screen instead of crammed into the corner.

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There are three levels of game play, Cadet, Captain, and then Space Ace. Each level incorporates varying cues to prompt your controls. Obviously Cadet is the easiest with the correct button flashing on screen as well as the traditional directional cues in the game. At Cadet level the game is easily beaten in less than an hour. Space Ace is hard core intuitive gaming. While I love the game, I don’t have the patience to learn all of the cues and hone my reflexes for this. Those more interested in really knowing this game is the level they want to play, and that infinite life setting will save you a lot of time.

When you’re done playing the game, just push the home button. A nice feature added was that when you start the game again you’re automatically given the option to begin at the level where you left off.

Strengths
The animation is amazing, which is not surprising coming from Don Bluth, and it’s a funny game to watch as you follow along helping Dexter defeat his foes. No matter the challenge level the story is interesting. Sometimes it’s just a challenge to follow the story while you’re paying attention to the cues so you can keep Dexter alive.

Speaking of alive, one of the most entertaining aspects of the game is watching Dexter and Kimberly meet their demise. Whether they’re being crushed by enclosing nailed walls, or eaten by some exotic monster, the entertainment value is high here. Often times I would intentionally die to see what would happen. The one I found most entertaining is below.

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There’s a lot of humor in the game, and because of this I’m certain that kids of all ages will be entertained by Space Ace.

Weaknesses
There’s not a lot of detractions for this game. The biggest problem with the game I had was getting my fat thumbs to press the little buttons. I don’t know if there would be a better way to control Dexter, but this may be a point of frustration for some.

Other than this minor detail, my only other complaint is just a word of caution to parents who may want to buy this for their kids. We all know that feeling of watching a kids movie as an adult and getting new jokes we hadn’t seen before… and then that mildly sickly feeling knowing that kind of stuff was in a kids movie in the first place. Well, there’s no difference with Space Ace.

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Much like being surprised by the bounciness of the Ginormica in Monsters vs. Aliens, I was surprised by the curviness and voluptuousness of Kimberly in Space Ace. Why does a cartoon woman have to be so curvy for a children’s game? There are also gratuitous displays of curves and panties for some strange reason. Maybe Don Bluth didn’t let his animators get out much? Either way, if you’re uncomfortable with your kids seeing this stuff then I would keep it away from them. Though you’ll certainly be entertained.

Conclusion
Space Ace was a great game in the 80’s and it’s a great game now. I love that this classic was taken from a 200 lb arcade machine to a hand-held device. It’s an enjoyable foray into simpler times as a child, and a great way to pass this tradition on to new generations. The style of game play won’t be for everyone, but the story is worth it. It’s well worth the $5, if not for the nostalgia alone, then also for the ability to learn the game as well as you’d like.

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