iPlutoid—a fun 3D shooter with a different look

Posted: October 7, 2009 in Shooter

Most of us probably had our first exposure to Lazrhog Games with its port of Kenta Cho’s rRootage. If you enjoyed the visual eye candy of that game, you’ll definitely want to check out its latest 3D shooter iPlutoid. Combining a 3D retro look, highly responsive controls, and innovative orbital gameplay, iPlutoid is a fantastic shooter that may just be different enough from other shooters to lure you in.

Playing the role of Lt. Starfighter, your task to is to battle and destroy waves of Noki aliens intent on capturing humanoid residents and conquering the planet Plutoid. iPlutoid is different from your typical shooter since part of the challenge is learning to navigate and shoot your way out of trouble while in orbit. This adds a twist to how you approach targeting, shooting and dodging enemy ships.

Visually, the 3D graphics are some of the best you’ll see…when it comes to polygons. Most of us probably prefer smooth graphics, but the use of jagged edges and corners, flat and shaded surfaces, and overall old school look work extremely well in iPlutoid. From the palm trees and buildings to mountains and hills, you’ll probably wish you could leisurely fly around a little more.

Since this game is accelerometer controlled, I was initially worried about responsiveness, but the animation and movement are done equally well. The controls work perfectly, although they do require some practice. To move left or right, simply tilt in the appropriate direction, and tilt forward to adjust the pitch. Thrusters are controlled by tapping the left side of the screen, while tapping the right side fire weapons. Auto/fixed calibration and tilt sensitivity options are also available.

The most difficult part of the controls for most will be adjusting the pitch since this is relevant for both shooting accuracy and navigation. A targeting scanner appears when an alien ship is in firing range. Because the game is played in orbit and enemy ships appear above and below your ship, effectively adjusting pitch is essential if you’re to hit targets. In addition to enemy fire and mines, your ship will be destroyed by objects on the ground such as trees, windmills and light houses to name a few if you fly too low. While your ship has radar to detect enemies, you are limited to a dual turret weapon and no shields.

To keep things interesting, the Noki have a variety of different vessels at their disposal. Lunars are the most abundant and the primary ships for capturing humanoids. They do this via tractor beam and if you manage to shoot them down before they reach orbit, you’ll be able to save the humanoid. Humanoids that are unfortunate enough to be captured are turned into Mutoids who in turn become yet another enemy for you.

Other Noki weapons include:
Miners—leave mines in your ship’s path
Spikers—fewer in number but harder to destroy
M-Ships—a vessel that splits into mini-ships when hit

Something to keep in mind is that Plutoid is a living planet, and this is really where the 3D graphics come alive. In general, the objective is to prevent the capture of all the humanoids. During the battles, homes and windmills are destroyed, but gradually rebuilt over time. Once all the humanoids have been captured, your most important task is to save the lighthouse from being destroyed. Apparently, the Noki don’t like light, and once the lighthouse is destroyed, Plutoid will be lost.

Having played with a good number of shooters on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, iPlutoid is quite different from the typical shooter. The controls make steering around weapons fire possible, although that becomes more difficult as you progress through the attack waves. A number of times, I’ve flown into objects on the planet avoiding Noki ships that tend to adopt a kamikaze approach. As simple as it sounds, steering a ship can at times be an exercise in futility with some shooters. In iPlutoid, even turning a ship around and reversing course is a breeze.

The art of shooting is one of the best parts of the gameplay because often a straight shot is not a straight shot. The target scanner will flash red when locked on an enemy, but on occasion, it can be difficult to pick up on the dark background. What iPlutoid could use is perks or power ups since there aren’t any at this time, although this may be considered part of the challenge. While it doesn’t offer difficulty levels, the game seems balanced, although the difficulty ratchets up quickly. But, even in your frustration, you’re likely to fall for the addictive gameplay. The game has local and online scoring as well as auto save, which only make iPlutoid an easy to pick-up-and-play game.

Overall, iPlutoid is fun and different kind of shooter that offers enough innovative elements to make it worthy for fans of the genre. For others, the funky landscapes and smooth controls make this an easy decision.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (addictive shooter with great 3D graphics, smooth controls, and challenging gameplay; game is divided into attack waves rather stages; targeting scanner can be difficult to pick up on occasion; auto save and online scoring included)

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