Night Shift Review

Our Review by Rob Rich on December 29th, 2011
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: PIXEL PANIC
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Survive the Night Shift in this retro side-scrolling survival horror romp.

Developer: Evan Szarka
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

The dark. It's always scary. Call it being a wimp, call it a natural survival reaction, it's something that's made most human beings nervous ever since... well ever. I'd be inclined to think that a pixelated retro-themed game couldn't possibly be scary, but when it uses darkness well enough it certainly can. Enter Night Shift, the first iOS game to make me nervous since that part in the mines where there are hardly any lights in Dead Space.

Players control a lone doctor armed only with a gun and a flashlight as he attempts to escape some sort of nightmare asylum. Controls allow them to move forward, duck down, switch the flashlight on and off and shoot. Fairly simple stuff. The firearm becomes essential fairly quickly as horrible purple blob monsters begin to stagger and slither in from the right, dropping ammo and batteries when destroyed and causing an instant Game Over if they reach the doctor.

I usually enjoy stylized pixel visuals and Night Shift is certainly no exception. The animations are a bit simple but the overall design of the characters and environment hits that sweet spot between detail and simplicity. However, what really impressed me was the use of the flashlight and sound. The doctor's heart rate is constantly thumping along while he walks the pitch-black corridor. Without the flashlight it's impossible to see anything, including monsters. Hearing that pounding, coupled with the sparse ammo and ever-dwindling battery for the only light source, gave me a fairly panicked feeling in short order. Turning the light off to save juice only to hear his heart rate pick up (indication that an enemy is closing in), then turning the light back on and seeing a monster only a few feet away can be downright terrifying.

Problem is, it's all very simple. There's only one environment. Only two enemy types (human-like and blobs). There's absolutely nothing to encourage progression save a better high score. Having to duck to shoot the blobs mixes things up slightly, but other than that there's zero strategy to it. On top of that, the drops for batteries and ammo are totally random and there have been more than a few times where I'd end up dead due to bad luck (i.e. no ammo but five batteries in a row). I also call foul on dying from walking into an enemy that's been killed but is still in the process of "melting."

I definitely appreciate Night Shift's style and effectiveness at being freaky, but it's still an awfully simple game. It might sound silly considering the platform but it's pretty simple even by iOS standards. That said, I think there's still entertainment to be had here. Especially from players who like their games scary, retro or both.

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