In terms of gameplay, UFO on Tape is about as modest as they come. All you do is tilt your iPhone or iPod Touch to try to keep an object on the screen. But what separates UFO on Tape from every other game out there is its downright brilliant execution. So what does it do that’s so great?
There’s no explanation about what’s going on or what to do when you first start the game, but you quickly realize that you’re a passenger in a car that’s driving down the highway. The graphics are an actual video from a handheld camera, so you get the uncanny impression that you’re just using your iPhone’s camera app, and that what’s onscreen is what you’re seeing through the lens. The gyroscope controls reinforce this idea, because when you move your iPhone, your view in the game moves with it.
But something’s amiss: A flying saucer is gliding across the sky. From beside you, you hear a female voice exclaim that– holy crap– there’s an actual UFO in the sky! You’re filming this, right?
Of course you are, because that’s what you would do in this situation. With her encouragement and the sounds of traffic in the background, you do your best to keep the camera trained on the UFO as it flies around in the sky.
But it becomes tricky when things in the environment get in the way of your view. You’ll curse every bird, building, light flare from the sun, and car door frame gets in the way. Also, you’ll need quick reflexes to follow the UFO as it darts around without warning.
Where’d it go?
If UFO on Tape hardly sounds like a game, that’s because it doesn’t really feel like one at first, even though at its core it’s a fairly normal high-score game. Your job is to keep the UFO onscreen as long as possible. Lose it, and the female passenger tells you which way it went. Fail to find it in a couple of seconds, it’s game over. Then you’re told you how long you managed to hold the UFO in view and given the option to check out the Game Center leaderboards.
There’s a small caveat, though. The gyroscope controls available on fourth generation devices are superior to the accelerometer controls you’ll have to use on older hardware. Using the accelerometer, though certainly doable, feels significantly less realistic and is slightly more difficult.
As games go, UFO on Tape is one of simplest imaginable. But when you play it, it feels real. And with so few games out there that offer this kind of immersion, that makes all the difference in the world.
Please note that in the original version of this review, the reviewer experienced a technical issue when using the accelerometer controls that resulted in a significantly poorer gameplay experience. After a device reboot, the issue has disappeared, and the above review has been adjusted accordingly.