Etolis: Arena Review

As posted on Videogame Jungle.

Set in a bland sci-fi world, Etolis: Arena doesn’t leave you with a good first impression. But once you see past that, though not too far, you will find an okay twin-stick shooter. You play as a Master Chief type character, the armour and helmet remarkably similar to Halo’s Spartans. Chosen to die for the Majesty’s sport, you’ve been thrown into an arena to fight the “Queen’s Forces”. Just like New Zealand is still under the thumb of the British Queen, so is this civilisation of the future. There is no escape!

Before you jump in, you have your game types:
Classic Survival: 3 waves per round, infinite rounds.
Dronez (with a z!): 1 round, endless waves of drones, infinite ammo.
Rockets: 1 round, 5 waves, infinite rockets.
Hammers (my personal favourite): 1 round, 5 waves, 1 hammer.

Then there’s the maps. Seven in total, you unlock them all by playing the game. Most of the maps take place within space station corridors. One of them is at a dig site, but if you go up a little you’ll see more of the same corridors. Unlocking works the same with the power-ups, your choices include invisibility, endless ammo, radius blast, and invincibility.

The difficulty is on a sliding scale, ranging from Normal to Seasoned to Elite. Your camera type is Dynamic or Normal. Normal makes sure the camera stays a distance above, while Dynamic has it zooming in and out to focus on the action. Your other choice is to disable auto-aim. It’s enabled by default.

A help screen appears, and you blink once or twice trying to take in what’s in front of you. What’s before you is an incredibly daunting heads up display (HUD) with quite a few different functions. For a touch screen game that’s not very big to begin with, I think this would probably work better in the iPad version.

After dying a few times in the process of getting used with to the game’s controls, you’ll discover what each of the buttons does. The game sports a virtual left analog stick for movement. The controls for firing your weapon depends on whether you kept auto-aim enabled. Auto-aim is just a single button that you can tap and hold down, firing at the closest enemy. Without auto-aim the button is transformed into another virtual analog stick, making it closer resemble a twin-stick shooter. There’s a run button that needs charging after use, but I rarely needed to used it.

Enemies include robots, bigger robots, and some ninja ladies with whips (called Sisters). There’s some other enemies too but they’re all pretty generic. They spawn from various corners of the map and home in on your position. Don’t let them corner you, as it gets pretty tricky to get out of there alive. Your life bar drains when attacked, but regenerates when you’re out of combat. When you die you have 3 strikes and then you’re out. Killstreaks give you that other incentive to stay alive.

You start off with a pistol and a machine gun. After each round you can choose to spend your “honor points” on buying more ammo, extra ammo capacity, or more weapons; a Shotgun, Fuze Fifle, Ion Penetrator, Rocket Launcher, or Proton Axe. The axe is quite powerful, maybe even too powerful. But it sure feels grand to swing it down on surrounding enemies, a shockwave destroying all of them in a single hit.

Weapons also include the grenades which have two separate on-screen buttons; one to choose the type of grenade, the other one to throw. As the throw grenade button is on the left side of the screen you either have to take your left thumb off the move stick, or reach across with your right hand. Neither of which is ideal.

The soundtrack is epic like something out of an action movie. A little like Lord of the Rings with an opera joining forces with an orchestra.

The 3D graphics (that’s 3D models, not 3D vision) looks fine enough, though things have come quite a way on the iPhone. So it’s not as impressive as it would’ve been say, four years ago. And sci-fi corridors aren’t particularly interesting. Chillingo actually published a rather popular game released in 2009 called Minigore. While it’s a lot simpler in general, it has a lot more personality than Etolis, and a lot more colour to boot. Where the developers behind Etolis got the idea that people craved generic sci-fi themed games I don’t know.

If you’re into iPhone shooters you might still like Etolis: Arena. But I’d recommend looking elsewhere. Minigore for instance, it’s a lot easier on the eye.

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