It's been a long time since we last saw a gravity gun prominently featured in a game, first introduced to the gaming world in Valve's Half Life 2. And while Island Delta is a far cry from anything resembling Half Life, it does a good job mixing physics-based puzzles and action adventure into an entertaining (and only slightly frustrating) experience.
Set in a retro-futuristic world, the story follows our heroes, Zoe and Baxter, as they try to break into the volcano lair of the megalomaniac Doctor Gunderson and rescue their kidnaped robotic pal Harold. Armed with a pair of Grav-i-Rays, you switch between controlling Zoe and Baxter as the two work their way through the lair, with Zoe going after Dr. Gunderson and Baxter sneaking around sabotaging the island by blowing things up.
Developed by Mantisbite out of Finland and published by Noodlecake, Island Delta was originally released for iOS in late 2016, released on Android in February. The game is exceptionally polished with a great visual style and cleverly designed levels and enemies. Featuring a fixed third-person camera, you control your character using a virtual joystick, tapping on objects or enemies to grab them with your gravity gun and tap on a wall or another enemy to launch them across the room.
There's few things more satisfying than launching enemies into one another, or tossing guards into bottomless pits or bubbling lava.
The first few levels introduce much of the gameplay mechanics and strategies you'll need to employ to make it through the 30 levels that are spread throughout three chapters. Island Delta's best moments are the clever puzzles using boxes and buttons, which will instantly remind you of another Valve title, Portal. Enemies are somewhat unbalanced — the most basic enemies can be easily destroyed, while later ones take more than one hit to knock out or are unaffected by the gravity gun. Still, there's few things more satisfying than launching enemies into one another, or tossing guards into bottomless pits or bubbling lava.
In the later levels, things get a bit too hectic as puzzles are layered on with unending waves of enemies which you must also contend with. For example, in Chapter 2 Level 8 you must avoid the shocks of a tesla coil, fiery floor panels, grenade-launching turrets as well as laser-shooting robots all while solving a puzzle to lower an elevator lift. Sure it provides a good challenge, but that's only because it's basically throwing everything it's got at you. There's no penalty for dying, so if you get stuck on a level you can replay the level over and over again until you figure out what you're missing.
One missed opportunity I found was the computer hacking mini games which are scattered throughout the game. The first time they're introduced you think that this will be another puzzle element that will get trickier the further you progress through the game. Sadly, this mechanic is not developed or improved on at all, each one feeling pretty much identical to the last. On one hand, it's a nice break from the much more challenging aspects of the level, but it does feel like it's missing the same level of upped challenge found throughout the rest of the game.
As polished and complete as this game feels, at times a bug will pop up and force you to restart a level. I've accidentally launched an object I needed way outside the boundaries of the level — and on a few occasions somehow managed to transport myself out of the level and into the black abyss. These were rare occurrences, though, and were equally funny as they were frustrating. Other issues arise due to the floating virtual joystick and the tap controls for grabbing and throwing objects. If you're not careful when carrying an enemy you may accidentally put them down instead of launching them at the wall, which sets yourself up to take damage. You may also accidentally trigger the joystick at weird moments, causing your character to walk right into an enemy's blast. It's just something you learn to avoid as you play via trial and error.
Each level includes five hidden databanks, which adds some replayability to the mix — collect them all to unlock bonus levels.
Available from the Google Play Store for $2.99, Island Delta plays like a premium game and features no disruptive ads or in-app purchases to deal with. The story here is fairly basic, but is boosted by the characters' entertaining banter. While it shouldn't take too long for a competent gamer to play through the entire game, each level does feature five databanks to find and collect, which are scattered throughout each level and occasionally hidden in secret areas. This helps with the game's replayability, as you can go back and get five stars on each level to unlock bonus levels.
Overall, Island Delta provides some good clean fun and some really challenging puzzles in the later levels. It's not perfect, and occasionally attempts to do too much at one time, but those issues are easy to overlook given the great level design and entertaining gameplay.
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