‘Shadowgun’ App Review – A Bug-Plagued, Yet Awing, Adventure of Aesthetic Satisfaction

If you haven’t yet seen Shadowgun, haven’t heard of it or didn’t have the curiousity to check it out in action on YouTube after seeing or hearing about it, then there’s something morbidly wrong with you. New from Madfinger Games, the game has already topped the charts thanks to its console-quality artwork that will be accompanied by your jaw literally dropping to the ground.

Before you go ahead and shell out $8 to purchase the game after entering a stage of hypnosis from seeing the App Store screenshots, there are some things you definitely need to consider. Read this whole review for all the details and out verdict. Is it down our alley or not (pun very much intended)?

The main character, whom you’ll take control of, is John Slade. Your job is to supposedly capture Dr. Simon, a crazy, evil doctor who conducts experiments on the planet’s alien natives as well as humans to create odd mutant creatures. These he refers to as his children/family. Umm…insane much? Although the story could have potential, it’s not tied into the gameplay much. Instead, you’ll just be running around blowing things and creatures up, apart from the occasional boss battles, which is fine by me as this is enjoyable in itself. Like other games of the same breed, you have an assistant that you’ll contact frequently. In this case, you have Sara, a robot. Although the dialog is slightly better than plain, the actual voice used for Sara is not; it seems as if Madfinger just obtained their sound clips from a text reader where you input text and receive an overly-computer-generated clip.

Shadowgun is an over-the-shoulder shooter which relies greatly on a well-developed cover system. Even though you’re on rails, and can’t really wonder “off path”, it takes some strategy to defeat the frequent squads of mutants will attack. By simply hovering near an object, Slade will crouch behind; this allows you to see the rest of the screen, pinpoint your target and briefly pop up to shoot. This said, the controls are easy and executed nicely. Similar to other third person shooters for iOS, you’ll control movement by dragging on the left half of the screen and will shoot/control your view with the right half. You can also reload and change weapons from the latter side. Having an iPod Touch 4th generation, I was able to enjoy the artwork, but not the controls so much – it took some getting used to and seemed a bit cramped on the iPod’s small screen. I’m really envious of those of you who own iPads…

There are multiple locations where some of your mind power is required to pass on. Some areas will have you “hacking” computers, which is alike Simon Says; the computer that you’re hacking will display a path which you must reproduce correctly. These aren’t too difficult which leads the gameplay to become kind of a repetitive mash of button-smashing in attempt to shoot at enemies.

It’s true that Shadowgun holds multiple hours of gameplay. I’ve only completed the first three levels and have spent over 4 hours playing. This is partly because of the amount of bugs and crashes that I’ve experiences. Every time I open the application and hit ‘resume game’ from the menu, which is very user friendly by the way, the game crashes without fail and I have to hard-reset my iPod for it to let me play. Additionally, each time I die, the game crashes – only some of the time would the game recognize where I died/my last checkpoint. More than 1/2 of the time, if the game crashed, I’d have to start a level all over. It’s a bit disheartening each time it happens.

Contrary to press coverage, Shadowgun takes only some cues from the Gears of War series rather than completely, blatantly ripoff everything – sadly, it’s not as big of a copy as I would’ve liked to see (humor), but even so, it’s got unique elements that make the repetitiveness a bit more tolerable and an experience in itself.

I would be crazy to leave a mention of the artwork out of this review so here we go: the artists at Madfinger are absolutely fantastic and are evidently professionals at what they do. Other than Infinity Blade, there’s no other game that boasts such high quality graphics. All of the character sprites are effectively rendered to give off a dark mood, and the vast environments have enough vivid colors and details to whet any type of gamer’s appetite. I had no idea that Unity, the engine used to develop Shadowgun, had so much power. Games like this prove that the App Store still has tons of potential and a long, long way to go yet.

If you think $8 is too much, though it’s definitely a relatively hefty price point, then wait until you see your power bill at the end of the month. You may want to consider stocking up on a few external batteries, as the app will straight out drain your battery. Finding those shouldn’t be too difficult. We have a few reviews of them, and a simple Google search for “iPhone external batteries” will easy return with thousands of hits.

I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve seen so far in the first couple hours of gameplay, despite the few gripes that I’ve mentioned. Games like this, and others such as Infinity Blade, really showcase the power of the iOS devices, the iPad 2 in particular. When iOS 5 comes out, I really want to buy myself an iPad 2 along with an Apple TV, so I can kick back on the couch and simply enjoy the gorgeous artwork that Shadowgun so uniquely boasts. So even though it’s not the best in terms of gameplay and veriety, it’s worth $8 solely based on the reaction you’ll get out of the graphices – so yes, it is down our alley.

Check out the beauty in action: