Beware of Dog

I’m still trying to figure out why this bandana-wearin’, heat-packin’ pooch has outfitted his little sailboat with lasers and a jet engine, but suffice it to say Captain Slobber (Out Now for $0.99, Lite) is out to prove that he’s top dog. So comically flashy and whimsical that it might remind veteran shoot ’em up fans of Parodius, Captain Slobber doesn’t take itself too seriously — and neither will iOS gamers who are keeping an eye out for a side-scrolling shooter that contains depth of content or stiff challenge. On the other hand, casual gamers drawn in by its art style should find it a fun and well crafted diversion for the short time it lasts.

Captain Slobber‘s bare-bones approach to shoot ’em up design becomes evident in its removal of a much hallowed gameplay element: the player’s ability to move left and right! Our intrepid pug-faced captain helms a flying boat that sails along at a fixed rate, leaving the player’s focus on vertical motion to glide over or slip beneath enemies and projectiles. Input simplicity is matched by a difficulty level – unchangeable, I might add – that feels decisively below average for the genre. Just be sure to grab temporary super weapons the developer has kindly placed before the most aggressive enemy waves, and you’re pretty much guaranteed success as long as you religiously hammer away at that firing button.

That assessment will come as a disappointment to many genre veterans no doubt, but Captain Slobber gains something in the resulting accessibility to casual players. While watered down, it’s not entirely un-strategic, and it pulls off some interesting boss battles over the course of its five levels. Once seasoned over a few retries, the typical player will run through all content in ten to fifteen minutes — a short ride to be sure, but one that I found smooth as well. At first I was wary of the way the game shoves its vertical thruster and firing buttons into the very corners of the touchscreen, but the developer wisely backed up its virtual buttons with the regional screen input that’s catching on like wildfire among iOS devs these days. Interested iDevice owners should note that Captain Slobber currently lacks an auto-save, but given its short duration, multitask practically replaces the need for it as long as the game is allowed to keep running in background. Nor does the original release of Captain Slobber integrate online leaderboard competition.

There’s no doubting what Captain Slobber‘s most compelling assets are: crisp hand-drawn sprites and environments that simply ooze organic charm. Half the fun lies in watching the sometimes bizarre antics of whatever enemies are flying toward Captain Slobber at any given moment. Furious Classical music samples wonderfully round out Captain Slobber‘s expert presentation.

iFanzine Verdict: Genre veterans who cut their teeth on titles like Gradius and R-Type will probably revile this one for its lack of strategic depth and challenge, as well as its short length. Be that as it may, Captain Slobber does a great job of serving a zany side-scrolling shoot ’em up experience to casual gamers. It looks and sounds gorgeous, but more importantly it’s solidly executed and well calibrated for the target audience.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]