Droidscape: Basilica Review

Droidscape: Basilica is a unique puzzle game from indie studio Kyttaro Games. The game was conceptualized in early 2012 and is now ready for release on the App Store. I reviewed the game using my iPad 2.

Watch the launch trailer:

Plot

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Droidscape: Basilica is a unique, stop-motion animated puzzle game set in a grim electropunk future. In the year 4057, a power-hungry Ecclesiarchy has plunged humanity into a new Dark Ages. One of few remaining Chronomancers dedicated to preserving the secrets of time-travel has been taken hostage on the gargantuan Basilica space station, and if he dies, an already dark world will get a lot darker. Only a small, unarmed droid named Bishop 7 can save him – and only with your help.

This plot is delivered quickly in a gorgeous opening comic-like “cinematic” (I put that in quotes because the camera only pans over drawings – it’s not animated). The story itself is a thin frame for the actual gameplay; it doesn’t really get brought up again.

Graphics and Sound

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Kyttaro Games says that they approached Droidscape like an “interactive work of art,” and it shows. Artist Hariton Bekiaris is credited with hand-modeling the characters in clay and animating them using stop-motion technology. It’s a good-looking game, and everything is represented clearly (important in a puzzle game like this). Bishop 7 has a lot of personality and charm, especially for being a robot. He kind of looks like a bug and an AT-AT from Star Wars were crossed. I liked the SawPigs (that’s what I’m calling them) too. Environments can be a little bland and industrial/stark, but it works for the setting; if they were too busy, it would be difficult to see what you were doing with Bishop 7.

The music is repetitive, but not unpleasant or intrusive, and there are the expected sci-fi chirps, whirs, and buzzes. The main theme vaguely reminded me of The X-Files theme, and hopefully you aren’t too bothered by it, because you’ll be hearing it a lot.

Gameplay

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The game is set up Angry Birds style, where you have to pass a level to move onto the next one. There are currently sixty levels split across four worlds (Manufacturing, Hydroponics, Mainframe, and The Guild of TAL), with world five (The Escape Pods) listed as coming soon. The game looks simple at first glance, but it’s got a depth that quickly becomes apparent. There are two different stages to how you get through levels. The first asks you to draw a path for Bishop 7 to walk through to get to the exit. The second has you walk him down the path you drew for him, manipulating his speed and direction. Along the way, you are required to pick up key cards while dodging other robots that kill you if you touch them. You can also pick up gems that give you coins along the way. Bishop 7 only has so much battery, so sometimes you need to charge him back up again so you can continue on your way. You get three medals based on how many steps you took, how long it took you to finish the level, and how many gems you picked up.

The game can be controlled either through touch controls or with the “HeadTwister” technology. I vastly preferred traditional touch controls, as I couldn’t get HeadTwister to respond with consistency. Additionally, it was difficult to keep an eye on the screen while twisting my head. The touch controls are much more responsive – but are sometimes too responsive, as one small twitch can make you run into a robot you didn’t mean to run into. I also didn’t like that it wasn’t easy to change the path that you had drawn – you had to exit to the main menu and go back in. A simple reset button would have fixed this. Every level is also timed, which is not something I enjoy – I’d rather be able to think and strategize at my leisure, not feel rushed through a level. If you are struggling with a level, after a few tries the game asks you if you want to go ahead and unlock the next one. Unfortunately, the coin cost is steep, and you don’t earn coins very quickly.

There are some in-app purchases: three power-ups, coin packs, and different-colored HUDs (which is purely cosmetic). There are nineteen Game Center achievements in addition to leaderboards.

Final Verdict

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This unique but sometimes frustrating puzzler is definitely worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of the cyberpunk/space/robotic aesthetic. It’s a game I’ll be revisiting.

Score: B

Grab the game on the App Store for $1.99 regular price, $0.99 at launch.

The HeadTwister controls are supported on iPad 2 and up, iPhone 4S and up, and the 5th generation of iPod touch.

Check out the official site, like the game on Facebook, subscribe on YouTube, and follow on Google+ and Tumblr. The team also has a blog and their own Facebook and Twitter.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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