Penetrator is a simple yet challenging game app from Readdle that finds you piloting a futuristic vessel through tight corridors deep underground. There are no weapons or enemies to avoid here; the point is simply to last as long as you can without exploding. Be careful, touch the corridor walls or a barrier and it’s all over! Penetrator has a simple concept, is surprisingly difficult to play well, and gives you incredible satisfaction once you get good.

The random barriers and difficult control makes maneuvering the Penetrator more of a challenge than you might think. Once you get a hang of things, the game is honestly fun, but until then it’s an exercise in frustration. The ship automatically flies forward, but you can only go up or down to avoid crashing. Gravity will pull your penetrator down, and you can raise it by pressing on the screen. Watch out! Your ship’s vertical acceleration and inertia are really tricky; If you push too long, your inertia will cause you to explode on the top of the corridor! I found that light, steady tapping works best for avoiding explosions in particularly tight spots.

Various power ups are scattered throughout each of Penetrator’s three levels. About half of these power ups are actually useful. The fast power up makes obstacles harder to avoid and usually means you’ll be exploding soon, while the shrink power up makes your penetrator smaller, allowing you to more easily maneuver by those barriers. To unlock the next level just reach a certain number of points. Each level has its own physics, i.e. faster acceleration, less inertia, etc. Once all 3 levels are completed, you’ll be able to go back to any one and play forever until you inevitably explode. That being said, until you’ve practiced enough with Penetrator to get really really good, most sessions will be over with in less than 2 minutes. Graphically, your ship and all backgrounds look good and the collision detection for your ship is quite precise. I always felt like my crashes were legitimate.

Readdle included a high score chart, which is useful for impressing any friends, but an online scoreboard would be great to prove to the world how awesome you are at, well, penetrating (heehee). Sound effects are pretty good here, but what’s mind boggling is the lack of music of any kind. Some techno beats would go great with this game, but there’s just the hum of your ship’s engine. An update fixing this problem is seriously needed, preferably one with iPod support. Also nice would be some options for sounds, some achievements, and a few more levels and/or backgrounds to unlock. Despite the lack of options and having a name that makes people snicker, Penetrator is a pretty fun game for a good price that just needs a few tweaks to be great.

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