Fans of bullet-hell shooters simply don’t see enough of the genre these days. Outside of Cave’s wonderful shoot ‘em ups – or annoyingly “Shmups” to some – the selection for these kinds of experiences fall short of what I’d expect; especially with how well they tend to play on touch devices. I was both excited and a bit cynical when I spotted Inheritage: Boundary of Existence (Free) on the app store this week. Not only because it was a shoot ‘em up, but because Tinker Games – its developer – doesn’t seem to be another app store hack, pumping out cash-in-games with hopes of striking gold. As for the game: it’s unfortunately not a Cave quality experience but…it’s also not as bad as I was expecting.
In some instances, Inheritage is just another 2D horizontal-scrolling shooter with touch-controls – a la Blazing Star. In others, it’s attempting to weave compelling narrative in a genre that, primarily, throws story-beats out the window. Thankfully, if you want to skip all the blah-blah-blah and simply want to avoid a screen-full of bullets you can skip 90% of Inheritage’s story. I, on the other hand, believe Tinker Games should be commended for their efforts, of realizing a world – yes, with chunks of optional lore to read – in a shoot ‘em up. Not because their narrative is groundbreaking but because it simply exists where most others tend to stick to tired tradition.
Fore-warning: Anime! Tinker’s clearly a developer from the “far-east coast”, so expect a few hours of rad Indonesian voice-over, absurd plot-twists, loud elongated growls and all the other Anime-troupes some of us have come to enjoy. Inheritage’s plot grew on me, though, and by its end piqued my interest.
I flew our cat-eared protagonist – and her trusty animal companion – between the tightest of spaces by simply dragging a finger about the touch-screen. Controls work smoothly and never flinch, although on an iPhone the lack of screen tends to make things more difficult than they should be. Truth be told, I only managed to complete the game while running on my iPad; which should be a concerning note to anyone without one. The extra screen real-estate simply makes the action more visible without your finger blocking the view. To my surprise, the up-scaling to iPad doesn’t hurt the visuals with jagged edges noticeably.
Still, controls are not what tend to breed skepticism with shooters these days on iOS. The intricate dodge-patterns – yes, I’m totally being a nerd here – of Inheritage were a blast to fly through, even when they make you pull hair out with difficulty. These patterns are not often repeated and knowing what to expect – or figuring out how to navigate through the bullets – takes effort and a bit of practice, as it should.
Shoot ‘em ups are about challenge. It’s a niche genre that scares those away who are unwilling to struggle; unwilling to get better at the tasks the game is expecting of the player. Inheritage obeys those troupes, challenging the-will-to-try again. When your health meter depletes, you face the continue screen and decide to continue. Continuing does not penalize the player by dashing you back to the start of a level, instead dropping you right where you left of. Face the continue screen 5 times, though, and it’s game over; resetting all progress. Too harsh for some, I know, but it’s the kind of challenge fans of “Shmups” respect. The kind of challenge I too respect, mainly because the game feels designed around the principle.
Inheritage: Boundary of Existence has a lot going for it. Its music, unlockables, art, and story all prove Tinker Games makes love when developing their games. And while Tinker’s debut release on the app store is respectable it’s not without problems.
Its narrative, while interesting, is poorly translated. Levels are bite-sized endeavors – which is an understandable point being on a mobile device – and lack any environmental dangers. Load times are a bit long. No Game Center support means leaderboards remain only local and useless. And the lack of rotation-detection means you can’t turn your device over to a preferred holding position. Nit-picks and nothing a few updates can’t fix, sure, but still notable issues – especially the lack of Game Center leaderboards.
Inheritage should be respected. It’s a first-effort, packing impressive amounts of care and detail, and evidence of solidity with Tinker. If you “occasionally play things like this” or find Toon Shooter to be your favorite on iOS you may want to test run this puppy with the lite version; this is a challenging game and has plans to crush all motivation with every game over. Inheritage is fun, though, and an exciting effort to drive story through a shoot ‘em up. It’s an impressive game that’s *just* an update away from being great.