iPhone Life magazine

Review: UFO Adventure by Greg Chaffins

There was a time when a considerable amount of my gaming focus went to third person adventure game classics from the likes of companies such as Sierra Online and LucasArts.  That time has passed, in large part due to the fact that such games aren’t nearly as prevalent any more, but thankfully developers are starting to see the merit of this genre, and in particular this visual perspective, on modern gaming platforms.  One such developer is Greg Chaffins, and his latest effort, simply titled UFO Adventure, shows he knows a thing or two about what I remember from my childhood and teen years.


 

The plot is simple: while out ballooning you crash into a UFO, and now you must get yourself rescued while at the same time saving the world from the impending threat of little green men.  If you’ve heard this plot a thousand times before (minus the balloon thing, probably) that’s okay, because it never goes out of style.  Beyond the initial and closing cartoon panels there’s not much of a story presented outright, though you do glean some details of the situation either by accomplishing a given task or through things like paintings or TV screens.  One interesting mechanism the game uses is an absolute lack of words – everything in the game is conveyed with actual animations or through diagramed thought bubbles from the main character.

You move around the world by clicking arrows to transition between screens or clicking an object in the background to move towards it.  There really isn’t “free range” movement like you might be used to from this style of game.  Some objects can be taken just by tapping on them, while others require you to select an item from your inventory first.  You can combine two objects in your inventory by tapping on one and then the other.  Any actions of this nature then require you to tap a check to confirm or X to cancel.  There are also some mini-games that basically all using tapping to interact with them.  No swipe or tilt gestures here.  For the most part everything is pretty responsive, though there are times where my big fingers apparently didn’t tap in the right spot.  An HD iPad display would suit this game perfectly.

Watch Your Step
 

While you do have to make a considerable number of trips back and forth between screens, movement is quick enough that it’s not really bothersome.  There are a decent number of locations and plenty of puzzles given the number of locations.  There are even a couple of mini-games, including the wonderful maze that every adventure gamer just loves (though I do give him credit for making it fit seamlessly into the surroundings).  The main problem is the overall length of the game, or lack thereof.  For the average gamer it will take under an hour to complete.

Aesthetically it pales in comparison to a lot of its contemporaries.  The graphics have an old school charm about them, and the one really impressive feature is that there are animations for every object the character can interact with, but a lot of the visuals could use a facelift.  The other problem is with objects flashing when you interact with them.  This is especially noticeable on bigger objects that aren’t quite rectangular, because apparently all the interactive zones are.  The sound effects are actually pretty decent, though I would have liked to hear more from the aliens and their pet.  The game could also use some more music.  Actually, it’s hard to tell if what there is could really be considered music or just ambitious background noise.

Ballooning Gone Bad
 

What it comes down to is that UFO Adventure is a fun game that feels a bit too much like a demo.  The method of story telling is interesting, the puzzles are basically logical and never keep you stuck for long, and the interface works pretty well.  I can even live with the audio / visual aspects because while they can be cheesy, they bring back fond memories of the games I played in my youth.  I just wish there was more of a game to play at the moment.

Overall Score: 7/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPod Touch 4G running iOS 5.1.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.