I completed Lethal Lance ($0.99), the latest from Bulkypix, a few days ago, but I had to revisit it today prior to writing this review. That’s not out of the ordinary in and of itself, since I’m usually replaying the game while I write the review to make sure I get my details straight. What is remarkable about Lethal Lance is that I needed to revisit it not to clarify little details, but because I had almost entirely forgotten the game. Now, I’ll grant you that I play an awful lot of games, but it’s quite rare for me to blank so thoroughly on something I played all the way through in the same week. For some of you, that might be all you need to know about this game, but I’m going to keep going anyway.
Lethal Lance is a side-scrolling action-platformer, not unlike games like Random Heroes (Free) or Legend Dary ($0.99). You play as Lance, a bearded man wearing a dapper hat who has to shoot his way through 32 stages, collecting coins and lighting lanterns at the end for some reason. Each stage has three stars to earn for collecting all the coins, not taking any hits, and finishing the level within the time limit. Unlike some games with a three star system, you have to do all three things in one go in Lethal Lance to earn your three-star ranking. It’s the only thing that lends any sort of challenge to the game whatsoever, since enemies pose virtually no threat to Lance and the levels themselves are quite straightforward and short.
Your actions are limited to moving left and right, jumping, and shooting, all of which are accomplished either by virtual buttons or, if you have one, an MFi controller. Sometimes you’ll run into a locked door, which means there’s a key somewhere in the level to find, but it’s really just a matter of going back to the last branching path and taking the other route. The levels scroll horizontally and vertically, but they’re not terribly big, and there aren’t any cool secrets to find. While the levels span four different worlds, the challenges found within don’t change at all. The enemies have the same behaviour, the hazards work the same way, and there aren’t any new gimmicks or anything like that. There aren’t even any bosses to look forward to, so the worlds end up just sort of bleeding into each other.
Enemies can be dispatched either by shooting them or jumping on their heads, depending on the type. In practice, almost all of the enemies can be taken out with your gun, so unless they’re in a tight space that you can’t shoot into, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick them off at a distance. Lance can’t swim, so water serves as an instant death, but aside from that, everything else just takes away one of Lance’s three hearts. The stages are rather small, so while the game lacks checkpoints, it doesn’t need them at all. Virtually all of the levels can be cleared in under a couple of minutes, so if you’re just looking to play right through, you’ll easily be done with Lethal Lance in under an hour. If you’re shooting for three stars, you’ll probably have to replay some of the later stages unless you get very lucky guessing the correct branches to take on your first time through. Either way, it’s not a very substantial game.
That in and of itself isn’t a lethal mistake, since plenty of short games more than make up for it by packing in replay value, but Lethal Lance drops the ball here, too. While the game supports Game Center leaderboards and achievements, the list of achievements is brief and dull, while the leaderboards seemingly only track how many stars you’ve earned by assigning each a point total. Had they tracked something like clear times, kills, or anything that would result in something other than a giant homogenous board filled with the same score of 16,000, there would at least be something to keep you coming back. As it is, unless you really enjoyed the ride the first time through and want to experience it again, there’s nothing to keep you playing Lethal Lance once you’ve exhausted it in that first hour or so.
The graphics have a nice, clean look to them, and although there’s a fair bit of palette-swap chicanery, the different worlds at least offer some visual variety to the adventure. The characters have some nice touches of animation to them, with Lance doing the classic foot-tap if you leave him sitting too long without touching the controls, for example. I’d also like to highlight the music, because it’s excellent. Each world has a different theme, and they’re all well-composed and catchy. If I had to choose Lethal Lance‘s best quality, the music would be it. Otherwise, the presentation is solid, if not spectacular, all around.
That more or less goes for Lethal Lance on the whole. Other than being a bit too short and simple, there’s nothing really wrong with it, and if you enjoy this genre a lot, it’s an okay snack. On the other hand, there’s nothing really interesting about the game, either. There are no wild or surprising level designs or gimmicks, no new moves to learn or items to unlock, and no boss fights to spice things up. It’s about as exciting as a bowl of Corn Flakes. The relatively low challenge might appeal to kids, and as previously mentioned, big fans of action-platformers might get something out of it while they wait for something more enjoyable to show up, but for most people, I suspect Lethal Lance is going to be about as fun and memorable as Kickboxer 2.