I have nothing against progress, and in fact I’m thrilled whenever someone interjects a cool new mechanic into the genres I love. The truth is, however, that truly original ideas are almost nonexistent these days. So if I can’t have something new and dazzling I’m perfectly content with a solid game that takes old school concepts and implements them well, and that’s exactly what Terra Noctis from Bulkypix does. The story is silly and mostly superfluous, the levels are familiar yet well designed, and money has morphed from coins to fairies, but in the end the most important thing is that it’s simply a whole lot of fun.
In Terra Noctis you take on the role of Allen, a nightmare who happens to be not all that scary. You set out on a quest to prove that you have what it takes to be a true nightmare, and in order to do that you’ll have to conquer many foes and best several big bosses. You’ll have to travel across several worlds in the dreamscape to accomplish your task, and each one will be harder than the last. Thankfully you’re not lacking in the resources to pull this off. Your basic tactics include a double jump, a butt stomp and the ability to launch some sort of nightmare energy at your foes.
Along the way you might get power ups that let you do things like jump higher, float when falling or even toss bombs instead of energy. There are two slots for power up – one “passive” and one “active”. If you happen to have your own stash of power ups you can equip one of each type at the beginning of a level, and if you pick one up it will replace whatever your current selection is for the appropriate slot. Note that when you lose a life any active power ups are lost, regardless of whether you found or purchased them. I’m not sure if I’ve just missed the feature or not, but it would be nice if you could equip purchased power ups during a level, because it’s pretty easy to forget beforehand.
There are three main things to collect on a given level: letters to spell out the word “scare”, gold coins and fairies. I’m not actually sure what the word scare does other than give you bonus points. You have to collect a certain number of gold coins in a world to unlock a bonus level that exists on that world. Fairies actually serve two purposes. The blue fairies act as a monetary unit, and at any time you can exit the world you’re currently on (though you will lose your progress if you’re in the middle of a level) and visit the store to buy power ups. The red fairies are necessary in order to unlock new worlds.
Allen is a pretty simple beast to control. There are arrow buttons to move left and right in the lower left corner of the screen, and an up button for jumping and a down button for crouching in the lower right side of the screen. This is the configuration on an iPad at least, which is what I’ve been playing the game on. To double jump you tap the jump button twice, and to fly / float you tap and hold jump again after a double jump. If you jump and then crouch while in the air you’ll execute a butt bump. The only problem I had with the controls was the opacity, which makes them hard to see against much of the background. I suppose you’re just supposed to get used to where they are out, but it’s not too difficult to slip out of position on the iPad, especially since the form factor isn’t really conducive to corner control schemes in the first place.
Take the visual style of early 90s platform games combined with today’s resolution and color palette capabilities and you’ve pretty much got what Terra Noctis looks like. For those that can’t picture it yet, that means it looks pretty sharp. As much as I enjoy 3D visuals, there’s something to be said about good 2D pixel imagery that 3D just can’t capture. The backgrounds are nicely detailed, though they could stand just a bit of animation. The characters are quite nicely animated, on the other hand, and the designs almost look like something out of the mind of a talented child. The sound effects are pretty standard platforming fare, but they’re certainly decent enough. It would be nice if more of the monsters made some noise. The music more than makes up for it, though, with a variety of different tunes that are all quite enjoyable.
There seem to be a lot of “retro” style games on mobile devices. I’m not always sure if it’s because of nostalgia, simplicity or the fact that “retro” seems to be a valid excuse for one’s inability to draw well. Whatever the general reasons, it’s clear that the folks behind Terra Noctis have a passion for old school gaming. The mechanics are just right, the levels are familiar and fresh at the same time, and the aesthetics make you feel right at home if you’re a 1990’s shareware junkie. Platform fans should love it, and those that aren’t will get a proper introduction with this game. Let’s just hope that Bulkypix keeps finding gems like this to publish.
Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link
Terra Noctis was review on an iPad 2 running iOS 4.3.5.