For a long time now the creatures have suffered under the yoke of slavery at the cold and uncaring hand of the machines, but soon their travails may finally be coming to an end. In secret the creatures have toiled hard on the ultimate biological weapon with which to strike back against the tyranny of their machine overlords, the eponymous Project 83113. The product of that clandestine effort is the pink furred Belle, a four armed creature – with flying squirrel like membranes for gliding – that has been trained her entire life for the mission of destroying the machine armies.
In NCSoft’s Project 83113 (Out Now, $0.99) you take control of Belle as she runs, shoots, jumps, dashes, wall jumps, slides, dash jumps, glides, double jumps, and special attacks her way to victory against the mechanical forces oppressing her people. Furthermore, all of Belle’s fast paced action is controlled via simple – yet extremely accurate – single finger based motion gestures. Normally a fast paced game with such a complex array of actions – especially a game based on platform jumping – being on an iOS device would generally not be regarded as a wise idea by most, but Project 83113 is a cut above its contemporaries.
Swiping your finger in one of the four cardinal directions provides the lion’s share of the actions you can have Belle perform, with the specific action taken being context sensitive to what she was already in the middle of doing. For example: swiping to the right will cause Belle to start moving to the right if she was already stationary to begin with, after which she will continue going to the right until you either stop or change directions, but swiping again in the same direction will cause her to perform a higher speed dash maneuver. Furthermore, Belle doesn’t actually need to be told to fire the four guns she’s carrying – as she will automatically attack any targets she comes across – you only have to manually tap enemies you want her current weapon’s special attack unleashed upon.
In particular, the special attack system – which has the potential to clear at ton of enemies from the screen at once – is tied directly in with the game’s life system. Every time you fire a weapon’s special attack you will expend a certain amount of energy, but you will also lose energy if you get hit by enemy fire – touch a hazardous obstacle – or fall down a bottomless pit. Since destroyed enemies drop orbs that recharge Belle’s energy gauge, it’s reckless to unleash maximum chaos unless you can take out enough enemies in the process to have made it worth the effort. Not having enough energy will either get you killed by a blast you otherwise could have survived at full health, or cause you to be unable to perform a special attack when you truly needed it to survive.
Project 83113 will never send you to a game over screen when you die for any reason, but your score at the end of a level will reflect heavily upon whether or not you were able to make it through without getting Belle slaughtered along the way. When Belle does die she gets sent back to the most recent check point she reached in a level, of which there are many per stage, but she does so with her score reverted back to zero. It’s a nice touch that the developers included a total level restart option, rather than forcing you to first finish a stage before retrying it, for players actively interested in their end of stage ranking.
The grading system itself will assign you a rank of 0 to 3 stars upon reaching the end of your current level, based on how many points you still have when you reach the stage’s end. While not dying during Belle’s efforts to get from point A to point B represents an important part of your performance, Project 83113 provides even greater recognition for players seeking to truly master the game with its kill streak system. Belle’s current kill streak value, which resets back to zero every time she takes on any kind of damage, multiplies the points awarded by each and every machine she wastes along the way. To further compliment the scoring system, the game has online leader boards – with each of the game’s three major areas getting a separate leader board – that track the combined value of all your high scores in that region of the game.
However, whether or not you actually care about how your performance ranked on a leader board, you’re still going to want to replay levels in order to get a performance that is far better than barely surviving. When the game is played correctly, Belle’s dodging of enemy gunshots – security lasers – and giant buzz-saws quickly becomes an impressive thing of beauty to watch. The end result of having created such a spectacle will leave you feeling like a real badass, a small cute pink fluffy badass, and that alone will see you striving to perfect your game play. Here’s a piece of advice for those of you with aspirations of being such a badass: when you’re failing heavily in the game it is far more likely to result from your approach to a specific situation, as well as the weapon you currently have equipped, rather than being about the timing of your inputs.
Outside of scoring points as an incentive for replaying a level, or a general desire for become a fluffy pink badass, each stage in the game also has both a hidden object to find and three achievement medals to accomplish. The hidden object in a stage might either be an energy tank that permanently increases the size of your energy gauge, a cassette tape that reveals information about the world and how the current situation between machine and creatures first came to be, or an upgrade token for increasing the power of the weapons in your arsenal. The achievements medals available on each level – which thankfully can be accomplished as part of separate runs – include recognition of the fact that you successfully had Belle waste every machine in the area, recognition of the fact that you found the hidden object in that particular level, and recognition of the fact that you triumphantly ran through an entire stage without ever being injured.
The aforementioned upgrade tokens are used to increase the power and efficiency of the variety of guns that will pile up in Belle’s arsenal over the course of the game, with successive upgrades to the same gun costing more tokens than the reinforcement that came before it. Upgrade tokens can also be purchased either with the little triangles that are found laying about each and every level, which furthermore respawn on every replay, or with real money by way of in-app purchases. As a nice visual move on the part of the developers, the appearance of a gun will cumulatively change to something more complicated – such as gaining an extra barrel – each and every time you upgrade it.
Unfortunately, the way you add new guns to Belle’s arsenal is – despite the abundantly stellar quality of everything else to be found in Project 83113’s game play – the one truly bad mark on this otherwise impeccable gem. There are a small handful of stages in the game where you will control Rob, a robot created by the creatures to help them spy on machine strongholds, as he slowly walks through a level – avoiding being seen by spot lights along the way – in search of new weapon blueprints. Compared to the otherwise stylish fast paced enemy blasting action that comprises the bulk of Project 83113, these slow and boring espionage stages leave one scratching their head as to why they had to exist at all.
Visually speaking, now that the gameplay is finally out of the way, Project 83113 uses a mixture of cell shaded 3D for Belle and all of her enemies – with Belle herself looking like something that might come out of a Sonic the Hedgehog title – and 2D graphics for the levels themselves. Those not playing on an iPad will – outside of the collectible data files that permit you a closer up view of the world’s inhabitants – generally not get a very good view of the characters most of the time amidst the game’s normally fast paced action, not that this presents a hindrance to the player’s ability to successfully control the game. Furthermore, it would have been nice if more graphical variability had been present in the levels themselves as – outside of the arrangement of elements in a level – they all tend to look exactly alike after a while.
iFanzine Verdict: Project 83113 provides users with fast paced hardcore wall jumping – platform hopping – enemy blasting action, replete with extremely accurate and simple to use gesture based touch controls. It’s just a shame that in the midst of so much success that the developers, like many console game makers before them, felt compelled to tack on completely unnecessary stealth based stages. The game will ultimately serve as a gift from the heavens for traditional gamers wanting an iOS title with high octane platforming action, but for everyone else this game is probably more demanding than they are ready for.