1001 Attempts (Free). 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 ($1.99), 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.