Pub Games are new to the games industry, having been founded last year in Melbourne. BlastPoints is their very first release, and it comes to us on iOS, playable on iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. I’m reviewing the iPad version today. It’s a 3D space combat game, featuring a wide variety of modes, weapons, and ship modifications. Is it any good, though? Read on to find out.
The game’s tutorial sums up the simple story, a tale of Artificial Intelligence gone bad. Apparently the AI that helped mankind colonise space has turned against them, taking over space ships and attacking. The government put out bounties, to encourage those who would hunt down and destroy the rogue ships. The bounties were called BlastPoints by the bounty hunters, and this is of course where the game’s name comes from.
Pub Games advertise that BlastPoints has nine different gameplay types, and these are: Time Attack, Deathmatch, Waves, Survival, Assassination, Challenge, Martyrs, Instagib, and Lucky Dip. The game certainly tries to offer plenty of variety, but the types don’t really feel different enough from one another. Although your objectives change a little, the gameplay doesn’t change much. Whether you’re being assaulted by a stream of enemies in Waves mode, simply thrown into an area full of enemies in Deathmatch, or are left to try and fend off enemies for as long as possible in Survival, it all feels pretty much the same. Waves feels like little more than a drawn out version of Deathmatch, while Survival is really just Deathmatch with a timer. Assassination is Deathmatch again, except you only need to shoot down certain ships to win. Instagib simply equips your ship with a weapon that can destroy enemy ships with one shot…and then leaves you to play an extended version of Deathmatch. Martyrs, when selected, simply places you in a random mode. Lucky Dip proves to be the most interesting of the modes, as it offers a range of different, randomly chosen challenges. These challenges don’t differ all that much from the regular gameplay of the other modes, but you never know what you’re going to get, and completing each challenge will net you a lot of points (as well as a Game Centre achievement). Meanwhile, the Challenge mode will simply offer you a specific challenge (taken from the same pool as those in Lucky Dip) to try your hand at.
Strangely, instead of being given the full range of gameplay types to choose from, the game only offers you a selection of four at a time. You can’t refresh the menu to get a different selection, or scroll the screen to view others. What the game hands to you is what you have to play. The only way to get a fresh selection of four modes is to actually play one. It’s rather silly. The gameplay situation outlined above is helped a little by the good variety of enemies though, with a range of different enemy types, each with their own AI to tackle. In addition, there’s a good range of different levels to fly around in, but unfortunately they all look like slightly modified versions of each other. Another issue is that there’s no real point to the game. You earn BlastPoints by playing modes, but there’s no levels or progression of any kind. You just play a single round, and then you’re kicked back to the main menu. You can use your BlastPoints to buy new weapons, ships, and upgrades for your ship, but all they do is make it easier to destroy enemy ships, which in turn earns you more BlastPoints, and the cycle continues. You could come to the conclusion that the point of the game is to unlock all the ship modifications, but it’s not a particularly interesting reason to play through the game’s similar looking/playing levels and modes again and again.
One thing that BlastPoints handles well is the player interface. The control interface is well laid out, simple – and most importantly – responsive. There’s a virtual joystick on the left of the screen, and a small cluster of virtual buttons on the right, with one being assigned to each of your ship’s weapons. For the lefties out there, there’s also a much appreciated left-handed mode selectable from the options menu, which reverses the controls. There’s a button for your ship’s primary weapon, secondary weapon, and special weapon. Although they’re very powerful, you’re only allowed a limited number of uses of your special weapon. If you run out, you’ll either need to buy more ammo using your BlastPoints, or buy more points using real money via the game’s in-app purchase system.
BlastPoints runs on Unreal Engine 3, and as such, it’s one of the better looking 3D games available for iOS. I’d place the game on a similar level to a PlayStation Portable game, graphically. The iPad is certainly capable of more than what’s on display here, but since the game has been designed to be played across all iOS devices, I’ll cut it a little slack. The ship models are reasonably well detailed, and the texturing work is good overall. The audio, on the other hand, is a bit lacking. While the sound effects are good, there only seem to be two pieces of background music in the game. These repeat endlessly as you pilot your ship, and while the techno music itself is easy enough on the ears, it begins to irritate after a few rounds. The experience isn’t helped by the presence of a feature that I initially mistook as a technical issue. As soon as you blow up an enemy ship, or fly too close to one, the game’s speed sometimes drops by about 50%. Although it doesn’t activate every single time, the fact that it happens quite often (and that the slow motion effect lasts for a few seconds) proves to be rather distracting. The feature feels totally unnecessary, as it disrupts the game’s face paced flow in a negative way.
Selling for $2.99 on the iOS App Store, BlastPoints is reasonably priced. In light of all the above, however, I just can’t recommend it. Although the gameplay modes are numerous, they don’t do enough to differentiate themselves from each other, and sadly the same can be said for the game’s levels. While the graphics and controls are quite good, the repetitive audio and slow motion issues really let the game the game down. It’s a shame that Pub Games’ first project ended up this way. With a more creative design, and a clearer objective for players, the game might have been one to watch.