1001 Attempts [$0.99]. It feels like there are at least that many tries each month by developers to relive the coin-op glory days. Everplay's latest release joins the pack with an elevator pitch that doesn't do it any favors; to give you an idea, it's peppered with phrases like "ENDLESSLY ADDICTIVE GAMEPLAY" and "SIMPLE TO LEARN, TOUGH TO MASTER." Don't let the bombardment of buzzwords stop you from putting four of your quarters in the App Store's money hole, though. You'll quickly forget all about the clichés in your haste to push the retry button for the millionth time. (Disclaimer: your iOS device does not accept real quarters.)

Games like this are always somewhat sparse on narrative, but let's just say our beleaguered pink protagonist must have done something terrible, because we find him in the room from hell. An inescapable rectangle filled with spikes, missiles, buzz-saws, lasers, and fiery flying heads, this chiptune thunderdome offers only one choice: survival. Luckily, some idiot left an anti-gravity device lying around, allowing you to zip to the top and bottom of the screen collecting gems on the way to safety. Why gems? Because…because high scores. Somewhere along the way, this "make up a story" thing really fell apart.

It's a good thing the gameplay mostly refuses to waver. 1001 Attempts upholds the arcade credo of learning by osmosis; from doing rather than reading any sort of instructions. Blinking, beeping caution signs act as warnings of incoming danger that anyone can immediately understand, making your first death feel unquestionably like it's your fault.

Without even thinking, you push the restart button, taking more careful stock of the space between missiles, noticing how long it takes for lasers to fade away. Amidst the procedural chaos, tiny patterns emerge, and conquering each one makes survival a surer bet. Slowly, satisfyingly, playing a round begins to feel like a series of little wins. Of course, unpredictability is never far behind, and some of the best moments in 1001 Attempts come from narrow escapes and lucky landings beside emerging deathtraps.

On a scale of one to Mikey Shorts [$0.99 / Free], the virtual controls sit comfortably at the higher end of the spectrum. Speedy response and mid-air sensitivity make movement feel at once like a bullet and a ballerina. You'll go from bouncing diagonally off of walls collecting gems as soon as they appear to careening through the air safely during a hail of torpedoes. Even still, I suffered more deaths than I would have liked at the hands of poor hitbox division between the left and right directional buttons.

Yet inexplicably, developer Everplay went the route of offering two mediocre alternatives alongside the standard configuration. One will stretch your hands awkwardly, while the accelerometer option is...well...an accelerometer option. Both feel tacked on in every sense of the phrase, and had me wishing the team had spent more time perfecting one scheme rather than shoehorning in two others. At the very least, more developers need to start offering adjustable button overlays.

There to keep you going through any frustration is an earworm of a sound track; a bleep-blooping love child of 80s arcades and 80s action themes that infuses the quest for Game Center leaderboard fame with a sense of epic scope. And while the visuals might at first seem lovingly cribbed from Super Crate Box [$1.99], kaleidoscopic trails of exploding pixels create a uniquely frenzied feeling as they fall off of everything that moves. A sense that you're going for the last high score ever in a crumbling videogame purgatory.

Eventually, it becomes clear that balancing and added variety might be necessary to keep the game from growing stale under the strain of non-stop play. Of course retro junkies will no doubt find room for subtle strategy, and use patience to their advantage in the climb to maddeningly high tallies. Even then, in the hands of less committed players, you'd be hard pressed not to get at least 1001 fun-filled attempts out of this one. I'd buy that for a dollar - and so should you.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Jerutix

    "Scale of one to Mikey Shorts" - excellent

  • swarmster

    I'd love to hear a little elaboration on the "eventually, it becomes clear that balancing and added variety might be necessary to keep the game from growing stale" point.

    Does that mean it's too hard and lives are too short (a good thing), or that once you recognize a few patterns it's too easy for one life to go on for minutes if not hours (a bad thing, and a trap a lot of games fall into which makes them no longer so much pick-up-and-play)?

    • http://www.facebook.com/eli.cymet Eli Cymet

      I'd definitely say that while the truth lies somewhere in the middle, I'd lean more heavily to the former (your example of a "good thing"). I think there's a couple plateaus in the late 800s and late 1000s that seem a bit too frenetic, and may turn off those who aren't the retro score hunters I described in the next sentence. So far, even after post-review continued play, I don't think this one risks having rounds be described as anything remotely close to too long. I'd be *baffled* to see around last hours.

      • mr_bez

        Any game where the reviewer admits to "post-review continued play" has got to be worth 99c.

      • swarmster

        Cool, thanks! I'll check it out later.

    • mr_bez

      Having played the game, I read it as "Once you reach 800 points or so, and you've played a few games, you'll have seen every enemy/hazard in the game." And once you reach about 2,000 the enemy patterns don't seem to get more difficult as you get further."

      That's not to say it stops being fun to play, though. I'd still recommend it heartily (and good luck getting to 2,000 points as well).

  • Matthew Rossman

    The worst thing about this game is that the virtual controls are pasted right over the action-not really an issue in most games where the focus is on the center of the screen. But in this, the whole screen is used, so any time you go to the bottom left of the screen, it's literally impossible to see whether you're going to be safe or walk right into a missile, They should have done what Super Crate box did and have the camera move ever so slightly following you so you can at least see where you're walking. I can imaging that this wouldn't be as much of an issue on iPad though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eli.cymet Eli Cymet

      Hugely good point! Definitely let it be noted: I played this on iPad entirely. The way the controls disappear after four of five touches each round, combined with the ample screen real estate, never left me with that impression. Can easily see how this would pop up during iPhone play :)

  • http://twitter.com/PacoCamarena Paco Camarena

    <- Developer here.

    We are getting a lot of feedback about 1001. We will improve some features based on comments around the web and itunes. Thank you :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/eli.cymet Eli Cymet

      Love talking with developers! Hope my criticisms seemed fair and didn't come across as mean spirited :) Again, really great control scheme in a landscape full of junk, would just love to see things refined and more flexible (as far as adjustable buttons)

      Meanwhile, the variety comment was more of a backhanded compliment than anything :P - I liked so much of what I saw that I'd love to see more hazards, vertical stages, etc!

      Last note: any faroff plans for iCade support? This thing made me want to dust mine off!

      • http://twitter.com/PacoCamarena Paco Camarena

        Any constructive criticism is welcome :)

        Definitively we are going to update the game with an adjustable control system, including an option to display or hide the controls.

        We need to study the iCade support, but the truth is that we debug using a ps3 controller, and it's great to play with it.

      • peon2000

        Great game, it's been keeping me and a few friends busy trying to beat each others high scores.

        Any chance you would consider making the border around the gameplay area at the bottom of the screen thicker so your thumbs don't block the warning signs in the bottom corners?
        It would be nice if it was at least an option.

      • chimpman252

        YES YES YES PLEASE

  • Nutrilica

    Just adding my oppinion, but I think in the scale of one to Mikey Shorts, the number one would be the maximum. Sorry, Mikey, you look like a bobble-head. This game, however, I will surely buy. As long as it doesn't contain any bobble-heads.

    • peon2000

      I believe that the reviewer was using that scale to refer to the effectiveness of the virtual control scheme used in Mikey Shorts not necessarily the art style.

1001 Attempts Reviewed by Eli Cymet on . Rating: 4