20/04/2009 at 20:56       Phil May       0 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
[iTunes Store Link]

Ketchup with a retro classic
So which camp did you sit in? Amiga owner (or "Posho" as they were known) or Atari ST owner (or "Musician" as they were known). Either camp meant that you probably enjoyed some of the best games of the 1990s, classics that today's developers are now looking closely at for inspiration for a whole new generation of portable games.
One such developer is Madgarden, who have taken the retro 16 bit stylings of games like Damocles and Another World and meshed them with gameplay that owes a debt to classic 8 bit shooters like Choplifter and Dropzone.
Saucelifter is the result, an arcade rescue and combat game that sees your beautifully controllable flying saucer tasked with rescuing imprisoned scientists from a war-torn world.
It's a good thing your saucer is a bit nippy because there are plenty of enemies lining up to blow you and your fancy antigravity unit out of the sky before you even get near the surface of the world you're trying to liberate.
Saucelifter neatly uses the accelerometer controls so that a tip of the iPhone / iPod will send your craft aloft, while lateral movement will move it from left to right across the play area. A tap on various zones on the screen will activate your primary weapon and allow you to blast your enemies to smithereens.
You can also use your weapon to blow the (bloody) doors off the bunkers where the scientists are held. The game's a little buggy at times, which means that even though you think you've registered a clean hit on something, it might take a couple of attempts for it to register. Don't let this put you off too much though, it just means you've got to be even more evasive and dodge incoming fire till your shots are registered (hopefully the hit stuff will be sorted out in the game's first update, due any time now).

Oooh! Saucy!
Saucelifter's retro stylings don't mean that the game's not beautifully presented and nicely animated. If you're used to the intense action of stuff like Dropzone you'll feel right at home, particularly after the first couple of levels and the first sets of scientists have been dropped off at the teleport beam. The difficulty ramps up to catch slouchy gamers unawares, so you'll need some Space Ninja skills to get the highest scores.
Twitch gamers might find that Saucelifter feels repetitive at first, but once you encounter later levels and start to revel in the way the gameplay is simple enough to pick up and play but difficult enough to prove challenging and addictive, you'll start to appreciate what the one-time PC retro remake developers have done with the iPhone / iPod hardware.
There are several nice touches that should serve as an example to future iTouch developers. Firstly, you can listen to your own music while playing. All games should have this facility but it's amazing how many developers inflict their turgid dance nonsense or horrible grating rawk on you instead. Secondly, the game re-calibrates the tilt stuff every level, so even if your arms start to sag you'll always be controlling your saucer at the optimum angle and control level for how you're holding your device. Now that really is a good idea.
Saucelifter won't trouble your pocket for more than a couple of quid, and it's one of those games destined to stay on your device longer than most other apps. A great little title, marred by a couple of bugs here and there but still playable and well presented enough to be worth downloading.


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