Let me start this review by saying I am not a fan of horror or gore. Seriously. I have such a sensitive constitution, there is literally a medical term for it: vasovagal syncope. If I see too much gore, violence or scary things, I pass out.
It’s happened several times; once when I was watching Pan’s Labyrinth in a crowded movie theater while on a first date. Not my best moment, I’ll admit.
So why then did I volunteer to check out Apple’s 2011 Gorefest … oh, I’m sorry … Game of the Year, Dead Space for iPad?
Here’s why: During the past couple of years, the iPad has bridged the gap between casual and serious gamers. Much like the Nintendo Wii, the iPad has created a platform where novices and experts alike can play side by side. Games such as Angry Birds, The Sims and Words With Friends bring gamers of all skill levels together, even when they’re on the go.
But this trend is changing. Games such as the recently reviewed Infinity Blade II, Jurassic Park and Backstab, a personal favorite, have been designed with the more experienced gamer in mind. No more is it just about pleasing the subway-riding casual player with puzzles and words. Now, skilled gamers are being given a reason to keep playing.
Dead Space for iPad is a perfect example of one of these games. It’s a gutsy, thrilling and extremely difficult adventure that challenges a player’s skills, endurance and psyche … and it won Game of the Year.
It must be doing something right.
Dead Space for iPad is part of the well-know horror series, Dead Space. However, instead of simply being a rehash of previous game events, this version presents an entirely new story and lead character.
The lead character is simply known as Vandal, a person kept anonymous through the use of very thick armor and a voice disguiser.
On a side note, I’ve found it quite annoying that several game reviewers have referred to the main character as a "he," even though the voice disguiser clearly has both male and female voices layered on top of one other. Can’t accept it might be a girl, hmm? That’s just shameful.
Vandal is part of an extremist church group/cult that tricks him or her into releasing a bunch of alienified humans, called Necromorphs, into a space mining station. Vandal is then trapped, forced to fight his or her way through a slew of disgusting creatures in order to survive.
Let me start by saying this game is not for the timid. There’s gruesome creatures, nightmarish visions and lots and lots of blood. I had to keep taking breaks while playing it, because I was getting so scared.
Yes, that’s about all I can show you. Trust me, it gets worse.
That’s one of the amazing things about this game. It really sucks you in. Combining amazing graphics and a compelling story, this game really makes you feel as if you’re fighting for your life, dashing through an endless labyrinth of corridors, wondering what God-forsaken creatures you’ll come across next.
The game recommends wearing headphones while playing it, and it’s for a good reason. Not only does it give the player extra awareness of nearby Necromorphs, but it also seriously magnifies the intensity of the game. When things pop out, jump or attack, the music attacks with chilling effects and hair-raising pops of sound.
You may not see the scary monster running into a nearby hallway on the picture above; but trust me, you’ll hear him.
The fighting style of the game cleverly uses the touchscreen in a way I really enjoyed. You walk the player with the left hand and attack with the right. Vandal’s third-person location on the left side of the screen allows for better visibility, whether attacking an enemy or messing with electronic equipment.
The only time I had trouble with the controls was when an enemy got up close and personal. When up close, you have to kill the enemy by cutting off its limbs; but if you don’t do it right, you die.
In fact, it’s pretty darn easy to die in this game, no matter what. Even on Easy Mode, it was tough staying alive. I received little ammo, no health packs and no assistance other than some guy talking to me in my head and a virtual light showing how to get to the next part of a mission. A mission which I sometimes didn’t even want to go to, because I knew what foul beasts would be waiting for me.
For those, unlike me, who may finish it quickly and crave more, there is plenty of additional content to keep you entertained, including timed killing sprees and unlockable achievements. You can also purchase in-game perks and challenges, which run the gamut from $0.99 – $4.99.
In the end, while this game may be a bit too bloody for my taste, it definitely deserved to win Game of the Year. It’s evocative, unique and thrilling in a way I’ve never before experienced on the iPad. When I’m so scared of some fake monster flailing around on a small touchscreen I press the Home button just to get away from it, that means someone’s definitely done his or her job right.
Congratulations, EA. You deserve it.
Here’s an App Store link for Dead Space for iPad; it’s priced at $9.99.
Disclosure: Dead Space for iPad was independently purchased by this site’s editor-in-chief. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the "About" page.