Developer: 3 Cubes Research Limited
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPad 3

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

How many legitimately scary iOS games are there? I don’t mean “scary” as in “it’s scary that someone actually managed to get this approved” but “scary” as in “HOLYCRAP!” Yeah, not very many. The Woods is 3 Cubes’ attempt to remedy the situation, and to a degree it succeeds. At least until the incredibly repetitive and frustrating nature of the proceedings starts to sink in.

Players hop into the shoes of a paranormal investigator as they attempt to solve a big (and somewhat under-explained) mystery while avoiding evil spirits and, hopefully, sending them back to Hell. In practice it plays out like a spooky scavenger hunt; with players running all over the woods attempting to find 20 hidden pages of an ancient tome while at the same time attempting to avoid the rather moody spirits that want them dead. Movement is handled by simply tapping the left side of the screen to move forward, while swiping on the right looks around/steers. Tapping the screen with three fingers brings up the journal/pause menu, giving a bit more insight as to the nature of this particular spiritual disturbance and letting players know how many pages they have left to gather.

The Woods is a pretty spooky game, I’m not going to lie. Wandering through the dark forest with just a flashlight and the sound of the gravel crunching with each step can be pretty tense, especially when ominous shadows start to appear in the periphery. Knowing that nasty things are closing in with each passing moment also ratchets up the intensity something fierce. It’s just a shame that the game can’t hold on to that creep-factor for an extended period of time.

Aside from the bizarre fact that stepping on every single surface in the game sounds like gravel (seriously, even indoors), and only being able to move forward as opposed to side-to-side or even backwards (??), a number of small details really hamper The Woods’ effectiveness at being scary. Movement is a little cumbersome, yes, but so is looking around which is vital to temporarily fending off approaching spirits. It’s also a problem when accidentally over-shooting a book page and having to awkwardly swing the view around to reacquire it. By and large, though, my biggest problem is the lack of any form of checkpoint or continue system. Not that I particularly mind having to start over once I get caught, because the page hunting doesn’t really take very long, but because it means I can’t take a break and pick up from where I left off. Even a temporary state save would be nice.

The Woods does a good job of generating a significantly creepy atmosphere, but it has trouble sustaining it mostly thanks to repetitious gameplay. It can still be entertaining in small doses, but multiple back-to-back attempts and failures really kill the mood.


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