Developer: Roach Interactive
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
One of the many nice consequences of mobile gaming’s somewhat limiting nature is how great it is at fostering arcade sensibilities. It’s the perfect venue for small games based on mastering one simple but deceptively deep mechanic. StarTrail is a good, but not quite great, example of this resurgence in action.
In StarTrail, players tilt a ship on a moving track, Audiosurf style, while trying to gather space treasure. Treasure comes in different colors and shapes and by chaining like objects together players extend their combo. The goal is simply to get the highest score possible but there is a surprising amount of different ways to get there. Since there are multiple ways to link treasure, players have to be extra aware of the options available to them. This gets tough too since one misstep means game over. While the touch controls feel jerky and awkward the tilt controls are so smooth that death is usually the player’s fault, not the game.
Other little twists include the hover ability which allows players to jump over treasure for a limited amount of time and avoid the wrong kind while heading towards the right kind. By keeping a consistent combo of either color or shape players can also charge up a move that allows them to gather all kinds of treasure. Even getting that far requires a great deal of effort though. Again, it’s the kind of game that’s easy to learn but hard to master.
Unfortunately, mastering the mechanic is pretty much all there is to StarTrail. There’s only one infinite track, power-ups like shields and hover extenders require way too many thousand-point combo chains to unlock, and neither the 3D sci-fi look nor the music rise above generic competence.
It’s a fun mechanic to master though and anyone who really tries to do it will get a nice taste of that score-driven early arcade culture, a worthy history lesson. StarTrail doesn’t want to take players on some epic quest to save the world. It just wants to make them better StarTrail players.