Project 83113 (Free) (or ‘BELLE,’ if you’re calculator literate) is a fast-paced gem of a platformer. For a moment or two you might take in its pink protagonist and think it’s a little too cute, maybe a little too light. Then she uses her four arms to pull out four guns and lay waste to her machine oppressors. Light? Nah, Belle is hardcore.
The recipe for Project 83113 is something like two parts platformer and one part bullet hell. You control Belle with swipes and taps, swiping her up into the air and then off to the right to dash in mid-air, down to hit the dirt and down again to slide under an oncoming barricade. She’s a versatile fighter, shooting all the while while you focus on getting her safely from point A to point B.
In fact, Belle almost never stops shooting. There are machines everywhere—in a story that should be familiar to anyone this side of Terminator, the machines rose, the machines enslaved, and now the organics have to fight for their future. So you’re firing automatically near-constantly while focusing on dodging waves of enemy shots.
Belle also has a secondary shot, a BFG you can activate by tapping an enemy. It knocks out any group of machines but also cuts down a chunk of your health over the next few seconds. Every enemy Belle kills sends health flying back at her, so it’s a calculated risk: are you more likely to survive the explosion or fighting your way straight through?
The environment isn’t going to take it easy on you either. The route from A to B in each level is pretty straightforward, so you’re not going to get lost, but it’s probably also filled with lasers, sawblades and other not-so-friendly things. And there’s a second route out there, one that’s probably hidden away and deadly but contains something special—a tape with a fragment of the story or a token that can be used to upgrade your guns when combined with earned or purchased currency.
You start with only basic guns, but each world has an impenetrable level with a blueprint for something better. Belle can’t traverse these levels, but—in something of a Ratchet and Clank touch—her robotic ally Rob can. Rob has a very different play style. He doesn’t shoot and can’t move much, so his levels are slow, plodding and thoughtful. They’re okay for cleansing the palette, but they lack much flavor on their own.
Before we wrap this up, make sure to take a look at that trailer below. Project 83113 is incredibly stylish, right? The cell-shaded models, the gorgeous storyboards, that sort of thing? That’s what drew me in, but it didn’t take long before the joy of playing made me forget all about the game’s great looks.
There are moments when the game gets frustrating, when the swipes are just too hard to control and you keep ending up back at the same bloody checkpoint. But the rest of the time, when you’re flying and dodging and destroying the machines—that’s good stuff. Exploration, upgrading, badge hunting, all fun things, but Project 83113 would feel limp without those surges of adrenaline.
There’s still a lot to do once you finish the game. You can return to replay levels for stars and badges that mark making it through unscathed or taking out all the machines in your path. You can hit the leaderboards and achievements. Playing for badges is sometimes more fun than it was the first time around. But I’d love a few more levels. Sequel, anyone?
In the meantime, you’ve got to give this game a closer look. Fabrication Games and NCSoft have created something impressive here, something that would feel at home on any platform but plays beautifully on iOS. It’s sexy, fast-paced fun. And you don’t just have to take my word for it; take a peek at our discussion thread for a lot more Project 83113 love. What can I say? Belle’s a charmer.