In a genre as well represented on the App Store as dual-stick shooter games, it seems as if it’s becoming increasingly difficult for developers to find a unique twist that will make their title stand out among the pack. Nearly each week brings a new onslaught of these titles, proliferating as relentlessly as the robot drones and mindless zombies which populate the games. Etolis: Arena is one such title, and while it is fundamentally ok, there really is little about it which is likely to make it a unique or memorable experience.
Etolis Arena, while not a bad game per se, is about as run-of-the-mill as dual-stick shooter games come. The premise, such as it is, is that you are a guy in a futuristic space suit who engages in armed combat against endless hordes of robots and creepy crawly thingamajigs. Dispatch a few waves and you are given a chance to spend the ‘honor points’ you earn by killing baddies on various upgrades. A few more waves of bad guys down, and you unlock a new map. While this would seem to add a degree of complexity and progression to the game, in actuality it does little to offer variety. The level designs are all fairly basic, the enemy AI is rudimentary, and the different weapon upgrades are a little unimaginative.
Competent: While I didn’t find much about Etolis: Arena to recommend it above the hundreds of other dual-stick shooters available on the App Store, I want to make it clear that I don’t want this to be a complete bash. It’s an all right game, and it performs adequately (although not as well on my 2nd gen iPod touch as I’m sure it does on a more recent device). I just didn’t find much of a sense of excitement, or a “hook” to the gameplay. From the impressions of other users and reviewers that I’ve encountered online, it seems as if some people genuinely like this game, and maybe I’m just getting a little jaded from having played so many dual-stick shooters. If you’re just getting into this type of genre and want a streamlined sci-fi shooter, then it may be exactly your cup of tea. But, basically all I can offer is my personal opinion: While I didn’t have a bad time with this game, there really was nothing about it that kept me coming back to it over and over, or compelled me to spend a lot of time with it (which I generally see as the hallmarks of a great iPhone game). And after I delete it off my device, I doubt I’ll be compelled to reinstall it later.
Universal App: Considering how greedy most developers are as far as splitting their app into an iPhone and iPad version, it’s refreshing that Chillingo and Facet Studios made the decision to make this a universal app. (Although I think it’s a little strange that the App Store still makes it look as if there are two versions of the game, considering both versions say they are “designed for both iPhone and iPad.”) So, while it’s not exactly a groundbreaking or addictively fun game in my book, I think it’s commendable that the developers show this courtesy to their customers.
Redundant: There really is not a lot about this game that differentiates it from the ever-growing horde of dual-stick shooters on iOS. The graphics are nice enough, but not great (it actually looks a bit better in stills than in motion.) The controls are ok, but not what I would describe as smooth or responsive. And above all, the gameplay just isn’t exciting enough to make me want to play this above any of the old chestnuts I have in my collection of games like this on iOS.
If you just can’t live without some sort of sci-fi themed dual-stick shooter where you kill robots and there are different maps, it might be just the thing for you. But for my money, there are more exciting experiences available in this genre on the iOS platform.