Scary, beautiful, tense and gory -- that’s Dead Space at its simplest. It’s also the game closest to a full-scale console experience you’re likely to find in an iOS device, and one of the most immersive and well-executed games the App Store has to offer.
Part of why Dead Space nails the big video game feel is that its developer, Iron Monkey Studios, worked closely with the developers of the console game from which Dead Space was derived, Visceral Games. Dead Space shares a title with a series of console games, the newest of which, Dead Space 2, just hit the console market. Dead Space iOS borrows liberally from the music, atmosphere and look of its bigger brothers, with mostly great results -- a scary third-person adventure game filled with murderous monsters and a sense of dread akin to something like The Shining.
You play as an anonymous operative known only as Vandal on a secret mission on The Sprawl, a huge space station filled with people. Through the course of events, some horrific monsters are released that start mutating your fellow humans into more horrific monsters, and the only way for you to kill them is to use your mining laser tools to cut off their limbs. It’s gross, gory and frightening, as well as intense.
It’s not a perfect experience, though. While the controls are well-designed for the iPhone, there are no virtual buttons, you just slide your thumbs around different areas of the screen or tap to activate different actions. You have a tendency to move forward and back only, with sideways strafing so slow as to be useless. This means that even though you fight large groups of monsters often, you’ll have to stand your ground and shoot them down, then run by, then spin around and try again. The lack of options diminishes the intensity of combat, although the game makes up for it with the sense of impending doom of a monster shambling (or crawling) toward you, and lots of popcorn-tossing scares.
Even though the gameplay is a little flawed, the story and presentation make up for the issues. Dead Space is extremely ambitious and well-made: lots of events will leave you wondering what’s real and what’s not in the game world, just as the main character does. Working through the three- to four-hour campaign is pretty satisfying, and you’ll want to go back for more on the unlockable hard mode.
Few games attempt as much, or achieve as much, as Dead Space. Its presentation and production values alone make it worth a download, and its story and combat are both engaging despite not being perfect. Check this one out, especially if you like being scared.