One current App Store trend is that games will take a tired genre and add an extra level of graphical polish on top of it. This is the case with Underground, a graffiti-themed side-scrolling shooter that puts you in the shoes of a mysterious hooded spray can artist as you ride on a subway train while slowly uncovering his troubled past. With these unique aspects, Underground is good enough to gain our recommendation.
Underground’s main draw is its fantastic aesthetics. From 3D-rendered stations, to the side of trains with creative graffiti enemies including floating heads, bodyless animals, and UFOs with faces (notice a trend?), there is never a dull moment. Even the menus keep true to the theme. The developers obviously put a lot of effort into the small but important details, including seeing your reflection in the window.
Tag! You’re it.
Wacky graffiti isn’t the only nod to urban culture in the game, though. ‘Underground’ hip-hop music sets a distinct, eerie mood as you blast away the spray painted baddies. This fits in well with the game’s storyline as well, which is told through the character’s thought bubbles and the mysterious writing on the windows as he arrives at train stations. As you follow along, you can change trains to go down a different story path. We won’t spoil it for you, but deciphering the cryptic writing turned out to be a game in itself.
However, there is nothing we haven’t seen before in the genre. As your spray can fighter soars along, he must avoid enemies and walls. Power-ups such as shields, extra lives, and weapon upgrades such as laser beams and multi-direction shooting appear every once in a while.
For controls, you have two options: accelerometer and touch. The first has you titling the device to move the ship and tapping on the screen to direct your stream of bullets, although we found this mode to be unresponsive at times and it was hard to tilt and touch the screen at the same time. Touch switches out ship movement for dragging a finger on the screen, which works fine despite some expected finger blocking.
Soda… so far away…
There is also no scoring, local or online. Although you are given a score after each level, this is not recorded anywhere in the game. While it could have been an oversight, we felt this was a hindrance to replay value, along with the pre-determined structures of levels.
However, Underground still provides excellent entertainment for those looking for an engaging side-scrolling shooter. It definitely won’t change the minds of those who aren’t partial to the genre, but otherwise it is one of the best of its kind on the App Store.