Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Not Lightopus; she’s out there on the front lines. She glows neon, loud and proud, while she darts through the water and rescues the last of her species’ children. Lightopus stars in Bulkypix’s game of the same name, and while it’s one of the most visually stunning games you’ll see on iOS, the unnecessarily frustrating gameplay pollutes its beauty.
Lightopus is a sea animal who has the dexterity of an octopus and the sting of a jellyfish. She’s also apparently the last of her kind, no thanks to a mass invasion from Abyss monsters. Said monsters have also trapped the remnants of Lightopus’s children, the “Bulbies,” and Lightopus must glide through several spherical zones to free them.
Easier said than done. The Bulbies are trapped in egg-like sacs that Lightopus must physically gather. There are several sacs scattered around each zone. There are also monsters galore. Lightopus can fend off monsters by whipping them with her glowing tail, but it’s the Bulbies who do all the heavy lifting as far as combat is concerned. They swarm Lightopus’s enemies and demolish them. Unfortunately, this action sacrifices some Bulbies, and you need to collect a certain number of the glowing babies in order to flee each zone.
Drifting through the ether.
More importantly, you also need to collect the three stars that are hidden in each zone. These stars are required to access and take down the game’s bosses. In other words, you have a whole lot of collecting to do, and staying alive long enough to do all of it is not easy. Lightopus is a game about survival: you must outmaneuver your enemies, use your few power-ups wisely, and, most importantly, conserve your energy. Lightopus is a fragile creature, and there are precious few life power-ups to be found in the game.
There are also precious few checkpoints. You might struggle all the way up to Zone 4, only to get knocked back to Zone 2 when Lightopus inevitably bites the dust. Lightopus’s merciless gameplay should thrill fans of games that challenge you to survive against all odds, but someone who’s hoping for a more relaxing experience that matches Lightopus’s soothing music and visuals will be disappointed. The game gives you the option to start all over when you die, and that feature alone should sate survivalists. For everyone else, checkpoints should be issued at the start of each zone. Lightopus is not especially fast-paced, nor is it the kind of game that gets easier every time you die and learn a lesson. Everything seems randomized, from the placement of the Bulbies to the placement of the Stars.
To make things a little more complicated (because even seaside life isn’t as easy-going as it looks), the controls for Lightopus feel sticky, at least insomuch as the little sea creature won’t always turn and whip her tail at her pursuers as quickly as you need her to. You have the option of using the touch screen or a floating joystick, and though the choice is appreciated, both are imperfect. While you won’t be hindered in any extreme manner, neither will you always get your timing down to that precious micro-second that’s necessary to get a persistent monster off your butt.
None of Lightopus’s flaws break the game, but the care that went into its watery neon environments make the game’s imperfections stand out with particular garishness. If nothing else, though, Lightopus is a treat to look at and listen to, and it is enormously satisfying to watch a swarm of Bulbies decimate your enemies. Creatures of the Abyss, beware the glowing tadpoles.