Updated: DeadlySpace Review

The DeadlySpace 1.5 update seems to have fixed the crash bugs that plagued the last version of the game. In addition, the developer seems to have tuned down the game’s difficulty; your targets don’t take as many shots to kill, and you can withstand a lot more damage, too.This update is certainly a step in the right direction, but DeadlySpace still isn’t much fun, and we’re getting very sick of having to start the game from scratch every time we play. We’re leaving our score unchanged for now.

The 1.6 update, which heralds “gameplay balances,” is another small step in the right direction. The game has been made easier once again, and it seems to run a little more smoothly, too. However, many of our core concerns have not been addressed: the secondary weapons are still useless, the gameplay is still repetitive, and the game still doesn’t save your progress. There are much better ways to spend $3 on the App Store.

DeadlySpace sounds like a really neat shooter/RPG hybrid on paper: a top-down space shooter that offers you four different ships, a bunch of switchable weapons systems, and experienced-based upgrades. Don’t believe the hype. This game crashes far too often to be called a finished product, and it’s no fun in the interim, either.

In DeadlySpace, you embark on an endless mission to blow up everything in sight in one of four space fighters. Your exploding targets fall into one of three categories: completely passive asteroids, mines that follow you laterally as they drift towards you, and alien ships that will pulverize you with lasers if you’re dumb enough to linger in front of them. As you vaporize this stuff with your own laser and missile weapons (there are three varieties each), you earn experience points to upgrade your ship’s weapons and defenses and fight back more effectively.

And so it goes, at least until the game randomly boots you back to the iPhone OS. Our experience with DeadlySpace was punctuated by crashes at odd intervals–sometimes after ten levels, sometimes after one or two, but we never had to wait for very long. The game doesn’t save your progress from level to level, either, so it was right back to square one after a crash.

DeadlySpace uses a combination of accelerometer and touch buttons for control purposes. You tilt the phone from side to side to move your ship jerkily along the bottom of the screen. You can’t move up and down at all, unlike in many other top-down shooters. Meanwhile, you activate your lasers and missiles with touch buttons in the lower right- and left-hand corners of the screen. These buttons aren’t very responsive and their placement isn’t ergonomic, so shooting rapidly is a bit challenging; toggle switches may have worked better.

We also found the game’s UI to be confusing and unappealing. The screen is littered with meters of different sizes and colors to keep track of your remaining ammunition, your health and shields, your experience, and your component upgrades, as well as buttons to fire and switch your weapons. This scheme is more distracting than useful, and desperately needs to be simplified.

DeadlySpace’s concept is not without merit, so we hope that its developer continues to work on the game and turn it into something worthwhile. Until then, there are many superior games on the App Store to spend money on.

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