Controls Ruin the ‘io’ Experience

Posted: April 28, 2009 in Platformer

When it comes to shooters and platformers, controls make or break a game. It doesn’t matter if you have the best graphics and smooth framerates. If you can’t accurately control movements, the game loses most of its entertainment value. Unfortunately for io, the controls do a disservice to what potentially could be a great game.

The story is that Commander Norton with his electronic friend Ned (think H.A.L. from 2010 except he’s a good guy) must bring the Nautilus spaceship back to Earth. The ship has been taken over by robots and mech warrior look alikes. In the beginning of the game (e.g. Back to Game, New Game, etc.). The only one that needs explanation is the Primer. The primer contains visual of items that you can pickup. These include access keys which unlock gates, guns and weapons for obvious purposes, stimpak which boosts health, PDA which contains the captain’s log, and crates and barrels. Theoretically, you can move crates and barrels to set up obstacles or hiding places. Under Settings, you can also the Frames Per Second (FPS) meter as well as Skeleton which shows the skeletal animation behind the game. It’s interesting if you’re into animation, but otherwise, this doesn’t affect gameplay so I suggest you turn it off. Also, while there is an option to turn/off music, I didn’t hear any music during the game.

As for weapons, by default, you begin the game with a nailgun. But at the top of the gameplay, weapons are represented as buttons. These weapons include Flamethrower, Rocket Launcher, and Railgun (these need to be acquired during the game). You have the Displacer, Cloak and ThermalVision in addition to the Stimpak for health that I mentioned. The Cloak is temporary with a number that counts down as it drains on power. At the bottom of the screen is your d-pad control, a Tap to Run/Crouch button (this alternates depending on your location/activity, and Jump. You have Menu and Pause in the middle. You touch the screen to shoot in your desired direction.

The graphics for the most part decent, and while I’m not a fan of the blackbox set up of the game (those should stay in the movies), it’s visually fine. The gameplay is decent if you can deal with the controls. I know I’m providing impressions on the game, but the controls affect so much of io that it’s impossible not to keep bringing it up. This is an on-rails game so as you move Norton through the hull of the ship, he will automatically turn corridors. One thing he won’t do is walk in straight line. Let me explain…io is supposed to have a 3D feel in a 2D scroller. What you’ll find as you move is that you’ll stop all of sudden when you’re in front of object such as a crate. At which point, you use your up or down arrow in the d-pad to move Norton around the object. If I didn’t accidentally hit the other d-pad buttons, this would fine. But that’s difficult to avoid since the d-pad buttons are so small. I don’t have dainty nor fat fingers, and I found myself using my index finger to move because my thumb is apparently is too big.

Along the way, you face 9 bots that you have to destroy and various environments which look great. A healthbar appears for each of the boss fights through the vessel, and note that this is a short game which explains why there is no autosave function.

The graphics and sound effects (with the exception of no music) work well. But io in its current release is disappointing and feels both incomplete and lacking. The controls do in this game, and there’s no two ways about it. I was pretty excited about io, but it will take at least a new control scheme to get this up to par with a game such as Alien Abuse.

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