Next to Namco Networks’ other three iPhone games–Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Pole Position Remix–Star Trigon has fairly esoteric origins. It’s a Namco arcade game from 2002 that never really caught on in the U.S., probably because the domestic audience simply couldn’t fathom the game’s thick Japanese esthetic. Behind all of those frightening pastels, Star Trigon is actually a pretty cool little game that is well-suited to the iPhone; unfortunately, Namco stuck to its guns on the game’s price while the rest of the App Store went on sale, so it’s a poor value at $9.99.
Implausible though it may be, Star Trigon is related to Namco’s Dig Dug series of games through the character of Susumi Hori, aka Mr. Driller; in addition to being Dig Dug protagonist Taizou Hori’s son, he’s also one of Star Trigon’s three selectable characters. These three do-gooders form a space rescue agency tasked with saving bird-like critters called Uchujin from floating in empty space by building “trigons” around them. A trigon is simply a triangular connection between three planets, formed as your agent physically jumps from one to another while trailing a line behind them. The tough bit involves deciding when to tap the screen to make the jump, because the agents are constantly orbiting whatever planet they’re currently on. So, if you time your tap incorrectly, they’ll miss their target and go flying into space, like a tennis ball swung on a rope and released.
Such errors don’t lead to instant death. A flimsy barrier surrounds each level to deflect you back into play, but sections of it disappear as you hit them, gradually removing your safety blanket. The real hazard, however, is your declining oxygen supply. Each of the three heroes uses up air at a different rate, and moves at a different speed, but none of them can breathe vacuum. You must either save all the Uchujin before your time runs out, or collect oxygen tanks to replenish your supply, just as in Mr. Driller.
There’s plenty more to worry about from there, too. For instance, there are several different kinds of planets that produce various effects when orbited. Crystal planets make you spin around twice as fast, raising the degree of difficulty, and toxic planets sap your air faster than normal. In addition, trigons only last for a limited time, after which they must be rebuilt, and the Uchujin themselves come in different flavors. Some move around, evading your best efforts to keep them in a trigon long enough to be rescued; others need to be submerged in multiple trigons, over a long period of time, before they succumb. The level designers do a great job of playing with these elements to keep things fresh and raise the challenge level–in fact, they might have done too good a job, because some of the later levels are absolutely diabolical.
Star Trigon’s presentation is about as Japanese as it gets; in fact, it looks like something a salaryman might be seen playing in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. We don’t consider that a bad thing at all, but if you’re not partial to that media style, you probably won’t enjoy the game. In any case, the game’s 2D art is of high quality, and the music isn’t bad either. We found the frequent Anime-style exclamations somewhat annoying, though.
The final word on Star Trigon is that it’s a good game at $4-5, but a pretty mediocre one at $10. There aren’t that many $10 games left on the App Store, and the ones that are still hanging on at that price point have big licenses, extremely fancy 3D graphics, or both. Star Trigon is a dead license, and while it is a good game, it won’t blow your socks off. Unless you’ve played the arcade game and love it or are a huge Anime fan, we suggest waiting for a price drop.