Sometimes, games can be experiences that transcend more than just a good time. While some titles are designed to address your sense of fun factor, others go beyond the call of duty, seeking to appeal to senses like sight and sound in a novel way. Similar to Super Hexagon [$2.99], Routa Games' Project '88 [$1.99] employs very simple gameplay, retro/psychedelic visuals, and an 8-bit soundtrack to keep you amped.
Project '88 wants you to get into the action as soon as possible, and thankfully, it does it in seconds without tons of tutorials. In fact, all you do is choose between the "tough," "hard," and "extreme" difficulty settings and you're on your way. The left and right sides of the screen move you in that direction respectively, and tapping both sides flips you upside-down to grab onto loops. Initially, Project '88 feels like a by-the-numbers track game with some cool visuals, but once you do your first flip, the concept really comes to life.
Other factors beyond the necessity to flip start to come into play, like perception defying spheres, and tracks that require pinpoint accuracy to navigate. The layer of track itself looks a little rough up close with some less than stellar pixel work, but everything else (including the dazzling background) looks fantastic, and viewing the seemingly endless road before it appears feels nothing less than spectacular. The soundtrack also feels familiar yet original, and those of you who enjoy chiptunes are in for a treat. It would be nice if there were more tracks that were tuned to a randomized variety, but they get the job done.
Every time you fail, the track starts out differently as well to add some semblance of variety to the proceedings, even if it doesn't feel truly random. While it is a formula designed to keep you entertained as often as possible, given the fast-paced nature of Project '88, I wish it started off a bit quicker when you start each run, as the first few seconds tend to feel sluggish in comparison. At the very least, it would be nice if the final difficulty started off at a breakneck pace for speed junkies.
It isn't an "endless" runner per se, as the ultimate goal is pretty simple -- you're going for a high score, and you're attempting to reach a certain point (level 10) on all three difficulties. Once you ace all of them you'll unlock a secret set of levels. Inline with the simplicity of the design, the developer has said that he's not a fan of IAPs, and a result, Project '88 has none. That said, all three levels do tend to blend together at times, and the scope can feel a bit limited once you're tired of running the game's tracks.
After an hour or so of playing, I found myself wishing that there were more locales to explore, and more obstacles to contend with. The setup is solid and the controls actually work, so injecting things like AI, enemies, and other mechanics would really lend itself well to the formula. There's a lot of groundwork here that would make a killer sequel, so I hope the developer stays at it to really knock it out of the park next time.
There isn't a whole lot to Project '88 despite the fact that it's a great distraction. You move left, right, and occasionally, you'll flip upside-down while listening to a rockin' chiptune soundtrack. Like Super Hexagon, it's perfect for a quick pick up and play situation, with no IAPs to speak of.
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