Developer: Moonshark
Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

When I previewed Verticus back in September I was pretty excited. The over-the-top comic book story, devised by none other than Stan “The Man” Lee himself, paired with the concept of an endless faller had me anxiously waiting for its release. Now the Obliterators are here and our hero must take action, but was it worth the wait? Oh yeah.

The basic idea is that a race of alien nasties has decided that they don’t like the Earth very much, so they construct a doomsday device inside its core. The only person with even a chance of reaching it in time is our hero, Verticus, a man sporting a fancy suit that lets him freefall at speeds and depths that would probably liquefy a normal person. Players must guide him past enemies and around obstacles as they plummet their way through the Earth’s atmosphere, one of the tallest cities imaginable, a series of subterranean caves, and finally the center of the planet itself. A virtual stick is used to steer the endlessly mobile hero as he nabs energy (needed for continues and item refills) and coins (for upgrades and such) while a button on the other side activates his missile launcher, which is handy for taking down enemies and handily converting them into purple energy orbs.

Perhaps it’s the pedigree; perhaps it’s the desire to do right by one of the biggest comic book legends of all time. Regardless of the reason, Verticus sports some impressive production values across the board. The visuals are fantastic and just comic-booky enough, the audio is – pardon the pun – stellar, and the constant chatter from Stan himself as the Commander ties the whole package together nicely. Turns out it’s all wrapped around a pretty awesome game, too. The controls are responsive, the speed is intense (especially once the Cosmic Fuse is grabbed), and the constant acquisition of coins perpetuates lots of replays in order to buy shiny new suits, upgrades to help with future attempts, and so on.

The only real gripe I have about Verticus is the depth perception, or lack thereof. Sometimes, especially when things really get moving, it can be difficult to figure out exactly where to position the hero in order to grab coins or not face-plant into explosives. It gets a little easier with practice but the uncertainty never truly goes away.

As someone who enjoys “endless” games, especially quality ones, I couldn’t be more thrilled with Verticus. It hits all the right notes and even manages to make a loss feel like significant progress. Admittedly there aren’t many endless falling titles on the App Store at the moment, but this game sets the bar for any others that might follow.

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