Dark Incursion [$1.99] had all the makings of a decent ‘Metroidvania’ title for iOS. Everything from its classically-inspired pixel graphics and music to even its overarching story created a compelling atmosphere for playing. Most importantly, Dark Incursion also did a good job of somewhat emulating the Metroidvania style of gameplay while attempting to improve upon it with its different take on equipment upgrades. However, despite all these positives, Dark Incursion’s horrendous control scheme simply ruins almost all of the fun.

Dark Incursion is a 2D side scrolling adventure game with a touch of platforming mixed into the gameplay. You play as Anya, an underground resistance fighter attempting to infiltrate a secret military laboratory. The game plays exactly like the recent 2D iterations of Castlevania or Metroid. Dark Incursion even preserves the standard ‘find power-up, backtrack to previously inaccessible area’ sort of gameplay (hence the term Metroidvania). Dark Incursion’s similarities don’t end with gameplay, as even the graphics and music are very similar to those spiritual predecessors. Even though Dark Incursion isn’t particularly original when it comes to its presentation, it still does a good job integrating a visual style that has proven to be popular in similar games.

Dark Incursion deviates somewhat from the traditional formula in its ‘fuse’ system. Anya has four different fuse slots, which can be filled with a variety of enhancement fuses that range from increasing your defense, to making you move faster, to adding elemental powers to your attacks. The elemental fuses are especially important because they also have secondary powers that are necessary to advance beyond certain sections (for example, the electric fuse can jump start elevators, allowing you to actually use them).

The interesting twist is that each fuse (with the exception of some basic ones) has a finite amount of uses. Also, when a fuse is depleted, it disappears. This goes for even the all-important elemental fuses, which means that poor fuse management can get you to a point where you cannot advance further because you don’t have the proper elemental fuse. Granted, fuses are dropped randomly from baddies, and since enemies continually respawn, you aren’t ever permanently locked out. Still, it’s an interesting choice but has the potential for some frustrating outcomes.

Whatever success Dark Incursion has quickly crumbles when it comes to its controls. Simply put, the controls are inaccurate, cumbersome, and are just not implemented well. Dark Incursion employs a virtual joystick, but the entire joystick moves with your finger. That means that, visually, the joystick always looks like it’s in the neutral position, even when it isn’t. In addition, simple actions like moving while in the air after a jump or even ducking to avoid a shot just aren’t reliable.

Also there were some occasions where I’d encounter a certain amount of lag between pushing a button and Anya actually performing the action. However, the jumping movement issues are by far my biggest issue, as you’re going to need to do a lot of jumping not just for the platform portions of the game, but also simply to avoid the potshots being taken at you throughout the game. Also, when you consider the limited checkpoint system, as well as the finite fuse resources, the control issues in Dark Incursion simply become inexcusable.

It really is a shame about the controls, because otherwise Dark Incursion would be a game worth checking out simply for its somewhat successful implementation of the Metroidvania formula on iOS. However, in its current state you would be far more likely to simply be frustrated with the game than actually enjoy any aspect of it. According to folks in our forums, a controls fix is supposedly in the works. Assuming that prospective update does improve the situation, Dark Incursion would easily be a game worth trying. However, in its current state, you’re better off passing.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Chris Aanerud

    I'm tried of defending this game, but I'll just say that the controls are fine. The floating d-pad isn't perfect, and the dev has already submitted a fix (although how good the 'fix' will be has yet to be determined).

    You can't keep your thumb on the virtual stick all the time like you may be used to. Try lifting your thumb off the screen briefly. You have to 'reset' your thumb when you enter a new room, and ducking requires a downward swipe and then holding still & not moving your thumb left or right once you duck.

    I have no problems with jumping.

    Great old-school graphics, nice atmosphere, fun gameplay.

    • Chris Aanerud

      *tired*

      Editing is fail right now.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    I hope this idea doesn't fizzle out because someone didn't do it right. I've been dying to play a game like this that isn't just an emulated DS/GBA game on my iPhone.

  • http://www.buzzabit.com/aaron Aaron Sullivan

    I don't know much about this game, but that 16-bit console era set of sprites and backgrounds looks fantastic. The cinematic, not as much, but still, it looks great and I love me some metroidvania when it's done right. (For a fast quick fix version of that type of play, however, Robot Wants Kitty is great!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Quickmix Frank Quickmix Hassas

    I will try it!

  • http://twitter.com/appstoregamer App Store Gamer

    Been noticing a lot of game reviews bashing games with bad controls and crashing yet you guys skip many good games that deserve attention... Why not just skip the review? Write it when it's playable.

  • http://entrepreneurialblog.com Niclas Johansson

    Bought it instantly because of applaudable effort. Tried it, dismissed it for the truly failed controls. But you know what? They fixed it, the update just makes the controls work. So TA, please revise your review. This is an awesome game, now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Phillip-Embury/703590385 Phillip Embury

    Super cool game I love it

  • http://drtl.tumblr.com/ Isaac Moore

    The developer has listed iOS 3 compatability on their iTunes store page, but in actuality, Dark Incursion crashes on iOS 3: "dyld: Library not loaded: /System/Library/Frameworks/CoreText.framework/CoreText  Reason: image not found"

Dark Incursion Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 2.5