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Tilt to Live Review: When Inconspicuous Dots Attack

Tilt to Live (by One Man Left) is a killer. I sat down with this game expecting a quick pick-up-n-play experience and that’s more or less what I got, only this particular pick-up-n-play session lasted me around three hours. Then I moved on to other ventures, some light web browsing, a Battlefield match or two and then… more Tilt to Live. Around midday I started to watch a DVD, halfway through I grabbed my iPod and flew into another round of, yup, Tilt to Live.

This pattern repeated itself non-stop throughout the entire day, at the end of which I came to a rather harrowing conclusion: the gaps in my entertainment which I’d used to play this game were the gaps that would usually go toward food consumption. I’d completely forgotten to eat. It sounds like the kind of cheesy tagline you’d expect to see on the App Store (much like “WARNING: INSANELY ADDICTIVE!”) but in this case… it was actually true.

The game plays similarly to a dual-stick shooter, only instead of firing a gun, you have no permanent weapons and must repeatedly collect temporary power ups that appear randomly on the field to combat the enemies (which appear as red dots, rather plain on first glance but you’ll be surprised at how much personality those little scamps have). You manoeuvre using the accelerometer and tap the screen anywhere to pause. There are a whole bunch of achievements to aim for, leaderboards to compete in (courtesy of Agon) and extra power ups to unlock… I won’t spoil the surprise. Facebook and Twitter integration are also included, take your pick.

Likes:

Accelerometer controls: I know what you’re thinking: “Hit or miss… usually miss”. Well, you’d be wrong. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but the controls in Tilt to Live are flawless and I had no problems performing the incredibly precise movements the game requires. For those of you worrying about manual calibration, don’t. You’re given four options for holding the device when you begin the game, Regular, Top-Down, Sleepy and Custom. I generally prefer Top-Down but it’s not important, because whatever your specific orientation needs, Custom will ensure you’re catered to.

Presentation: It’s a tough one to get right. Even when you nail the gameplay screen itself you’ve then got the menus to sort out, the load screens to tweak, the text to mess with, icons to match up… Presentation is not an easy task, and merely being good at graphic design doesn’t particularly mean you’ll nail the specifics such as button placement and ease of navigation first time. Thankfully, Tilt to Live is a great example of how to make a game clear, simple, understandable and attractive to the eye, all at the same time. It takes a slight minimalistic approach yet has a surprising amount of flair going on in the background, and it works, the whole experience is nothing but smooth sailing.

Dislikes:

Difficulty curve: Let me explain, the difficulty curve itself is actually pretty good, but only for your first few games. The problem comes when you’re forced to restart the game and the difficulty resets itself back to zero. The first few minutes are pretty slow and once you become further acquainted with the game serve only to test your patience. The game could really do with an “Instant Action” mode which bypasses the slow build up and throws you into something more exciting.

Too few modes: What’s there is great, the game is fun, well worth the price and worthy of a place on the iPhones of all serious gamers, but there’s only one mode. Many recent dual stick shooters appear to have taken inspiration from the Geometry Wars games on the Xbox 360′s Live Arcade, perhaps they ought to take a little more. Geo Wars 2 featured six different modes, all of which are entertaining in their own way, but for some reason many iPhone shooters restrict themselves to one… I’d like to see that change. Geo Wars is just an example, there are so many directions these games could go in that it seems a shame such talented developers would sell themselves short in this way.

Tilt to Live is a game you should own. It’s unique enough to stand out among other dual stick shooters (not least because it doesn’t actually have any sticks) and has that one-more-try quality so many games strive for. For the asking price, it’s a bargain, and with a few updates… it’ll be a steal.

Tilt to Live is developed by One Man Left, and I played through version 1.0 on my iPod Touch 2G. The current price of the game is $1.99.



  1. Carter Dotson on Thursday 18, 2010

    Yeah, this game is obscenely addictive. It’s on my main game page, and it’s a keeper.

    BTW, I did an interview with the One Man Left guys – http://theportablegamer.com/2010/03/portable-podcast-episode-24/ – this was their first shipped game. How they managed to get the controls right given that this was their first game, it took a lot of testing, but they nailed it, and they’re still working on improving the calibrations.

    BTW, if you didn’t see Touch Arcade, they’re adding a mode that is crazy from the start – I’m looking forward to it.

  2. John on Thursday 18, 2010

    Yeah I saw that article, if the update turns out as good as it looks I’ll add an update to my review to reflect it. Not that it matters too much as it’s already got the best score possible. Gauntlet mode looks amazing.

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