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Neon-Glowing ‘Tunnel Shoot’ Is Fun for All Devices

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Earlier this month at Apple’s WWDC 2010 in San Francisco, we had a chance to sit down with Julian Farrior and Dale Thoms of Backflip Studios, who brought us Ragdoll Blaster and Paper Toss, among others. The group has shown real App Store savvy, with eight of their 12 titles reaching the top five overall ranking. What’s more, they’re presently serving one million unique players per day.

In our time together, the folks from Backflip demonstrated four new titles — three free games along with the paid arcade shooter Tunnel Shoot, a collaboration between Backflip Studios and Team Phobic (Bounce OnBounce On 2). We liked what we saw of them all, but it was the last that really had us excited — and now it’s here. Tunnel Shoot [link] has recently gone live in the App Store.

Now, right off the bat — aside from anything relating to gameplay — Backflip / Team Phobic impress with Tunnel Shoot in that it’s a Universal iOS game that graphically renders natively to all three iOS platform devices: the iPhone / iPod touch, the iPhone 4, and the iPad. Everybody wins, here.

Tunnel Shoot is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a tunnel shooter in the vein of N2O: Nitrous Oxide for the Playstation (and is somewhat reminiscent of the iPhone’s own Boost 3D). The goal of the game is to survive as long as possible, travelling down a neon-vector tunnel while dodging obstacles, blasting enemies, and collecting green gems for points. You’re placed in tilt-control of your craft, with a tap / hold mechanic for firing your blaster and bombs.

Your ship’s blasters, when first activated, fire bursts of three bolts per shot, but as you hold down the fire “button," that soon drops to two bolts, and then to just a stream of single bolts. Let up on the button and your blasters quickly recharge and it’s back to three bolts per shot. (Read: don’t just lay on the fire button, folks.) You start off with one bomb which, when activated, flies down the tunnel destroying all enemies in its path. More are accumulated along the way. Your damage bar replenishes over time, and fairly quickly. A nice touch is that when you get blown up, the force of the explosion sends a destructive shockwave down the tunnel before you respawn.

The farther you go, the harder things get. After you get a little ways into the game, the obstacle layouts become rather complex. The arrangement of oncoming pylons and walls becomes difficult to visually comprehend between their appearance on the screen and their crushing impact with your ship. Here, I experience a definite advantage in playing on the iPad and, to a lesser extent, the iPhone 4 as compared to the earlier iOS devices. It’s just easier to make out distant structures on larger and / or higher resolution displays. That said — the game is great on the older devices. I’ve, in fact, spent the most time with it on my 3GS.

As mentioned earlier, the game utilizes accelerometer-based tilt controls for steering. Tilt controls for fast paced shooters can often come up short, given their generally slower reaction time and lesser precision as compared to onscreen swipes. That’s really not a problem in Tunnel Shoot as, although the action is intense, the velocity at which you’re hurtling down the tunnel is a bit slower than that of some, similar games. I don’t mean to indicate that it’s some sort of “sluggish" or “laggy" affair, it’s just that you’re being challenged to dodge hither and yon, choosing your path and placing your shots wisely, as opposed to emphasis being on go, go, go!

The long and short of it is that Tunnel Shoot is a stylized shooter that feels very well implemented, delivers real challenge, supports all iOS devices natively, and costs $0.99. The only gripe I’ve got is that there’s no real explanation as to the specifics, in-game — how the multi-blaster works, that green gems are good, that your damage repairs over time, etc. Nonetheless, it should be an instant buy for anyone that even approximates a shooter fan — especially if you’ve got multiple devices.

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