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Lightopus is the debut title from developer Appxplore, published by BulkyPix. It’s a very well made and unique game with bright, colorful visuals and relaxing music, but some overly challenging gameplay that doesn’t really seem to match the aesthetics. This is a fun, fluid title that will appeal to multiple demographics, but it likely won’t satisfy any of them.
You play as the lightopus. In fact, you are the very last adult lightopus in the vast sea. After horrible monsters from the Abyss rise up, they seal away all the lightopus egg sacks in awful, monster filled zones. It’s up to big mama lightopus to go in and free them all, eventually fighting the monsters back. After entering a randomized zone, you must free all the baby lightopi, known as “bulbies” from their eggs. They form a vicious little army that follows your every move, and you need a certain amount to build up the necessary speed to escape each zone membrane.
The arcade style gameplay involves going through each zone, collecting bulbies, power ups, and stars. The stars are actually required if you want to unlock the boss hive zones, but doing so is not an easy task. The longer you stay in a zone, the more aggressive and numerous the monsters will become. Likewise, more power-ups will pop up to give you more of a fighting chance, but it is very challenging nonetheless due to the rather inconsistent checkpoint system. Instead of saving your progress for each zone, checkpoints pop up after several zones at a time. This wouldn’t be too bad if your lightopus’ health would be refilled between zones, but it isn’t, and you can only take five hits before dying.
The controls are pretty well done; you choose between a floating virtual stick and tap and drag touch controls. Learning to maneuver the lightopus well is key, as avoidance and survival is the name of the game. You can hit enemies away from you by whipping them with your tail, but the only way to kill them is to maneuver your bulbies around them. I guess then the bulbies devour them hungrily or something. This indirect method of combat definitely adds a layer of depth to the gameplay, but the extremely difficult progression really distracts from all this.
The visuals and atmosphere are both fantastic. The bright, neon-colored assets, the smooth animation, and the relaxing mood music really set the tone for the game. Unfortunately, the intense avoidance gameplay sets up a totally contrasting tone of frustration, and there is a serious disconnect between the play mechanics and the aesthetics. This is a great game if you’re looking for a serious challenge and enjoy building up high scores more than anything else. Game Center leaderboards and achievements are supported, and this iOS Universal title is available for three dollars at the time of this review. It’s still a well-made and unique title that is quite enjoyable over all, but the lack of a complimentary, uniform design definitely keeps the game from being the best that it could.