App Reviewed on: iPhone 4
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On the consoles an on-rails game may be a rare and risky endeavour, but on iOS devices the genre is appropriately unstoppable. Particularly so the seemingly infinite brand of on-rails, games like madcap platformer Canabalt and Apple Europe’s iPhone game of the year, Tiny Wings, which are as much about endurance as they are about dexterity. It may not quite b in the lofty ranks of those games, but step forward Stay Alive to get 2012 rolling and rolling and rolling along.
I find Stay Alive’s controls initially a struggle to acclimatise to; a thin strip on the left-hand side of the screen to drag-slide the otherwise static ship up and down, the remainder of the screen left for me to aim and fire shots in. The game keenly urges me into quick, successive goes and soon enough I’m gliding up and down the screen, rocketing through the space ahead of me. A few hours of solid meandering and shooting later and I’m still hooked.
Stay Alive nails that one-more-go factor, mainly because it complements its main goal of avoiding aliens and asteroids for as long as possible with a secondary goal of collecting as many orbs as possible to then spend on ship upgrades like stronger attacks, more starting ammunition, and so on. Another significant factor is the charm both in the single chiptune track that suprisingly doesn’t grate and in the lo-fi visuals that evoke the sense of something homemade and unpretentious, things like the chalkboard font and the wonderful inclusion of a “badass lazer mode” – which is fairly badass too.
If I had to be nitpicky I’d say there could be a little more variety; outside of orb-collecting there are only three power-ups to look out for. And while the lo-fi visuals do have a charm, there’s no reason there couldn’t be more colour or variety in the aliens. I suppose it’s arguable that keeping things limited and simplistic helps engender that sense of a continous, never-ending experience, but Tiny Wings seemed to do a good job of adding colour here and there without spoiling the experience.
This is all at danger of taking a game that isn’t meant to be taken seriously even but an inch of seriously, so let’s stop there. What’s most impressive about Stay Alive is how flawlessly it works at the fundamental level, and with these never-ending on-rails games that’s a hugely significant platform to build upon. Maybe the game could’ve built on it a bit more but even without it’s a great little time-drain and well worth a look and maybe a few several hours.