Tilt to Live Hands-On Preview

You’d better start stockpiling coffee and energy drinks now, because you’ll want your reflexes as sharp as possible when the quasi-shooter Tilt to Live hits the App Store. We got our hands on a preview build of this frantic action game, and we’ve been mainlining caffeine ever since just to keep up.

You control an arrow-shaped cursor on a playing field the size of the screen, and the goal is to avoid being hit by the moving red dots that keep appearing. The controls are tilt only, making the gameplay resemble a ball-rolling game. The real kicker is that your cursor has no on-board weapons. Instead, you have to make your way to powerups that float around the screen.

Each of the eight types of powerups unleashes a different attack. One sends a swarm of heat-seeking missiles radiating outward from your cursor. Another unleashes a mighty vortex that sucks in everything that gets too close, including your cursor and nearby powerups. Perhaps the most useful one protects your cursor with a green force field, but it explodes when you take a hit.

For being nothing but red dots, the enemies have a remarkable amount of personality. Sometimes they’ll float around randomly, while other times they’ll ooze together into shapes, or line up in formations and come at you with purpose. Occasionally they’ll gel into a ball and a pair of paddles and play Pong as you try to take them out.

This is a high score game, and the action gets intense quickly. Because of this, we’re glad to see that the tilt controls feel very tight. Many times you’ll need to navigate through a fast-closing hole in the enemy line, and we never had any trouble doing it, provided our reaction time was fast enough.

Twenty achievements can be unlocked in the game, each with a funny name and description. Many of them are awarded for stringing together dot-eliminating combos. The first one, for killing five dots in a row, is called “Highest Combo Conceivable”. The second, for killing 15, is called “We lied,” and its description reads, “This is an example of a better combo.”

Some achievements reward you for playing the game differently from how you normally would. The “Conscientious Objector” achievement is for lasting one minute without killing a single dot, which is no easy task.

Three unlockable weapons become available as you play, and online leaderboards are tracked through AGON. The animation is smooth, and the graphics are crisp and clean. The whole package already has an extremely polished feel, so we’re looking forward to seeing the final version.

Tilt to Live will be submitted to Apple later this month and will cost $1.99. Now who’s up for a shot of espresso?