by Staff Writer
February 17, 2011
Risk life and limb to outrun lava as you try to escape a volcano in Volcano Escape. You begin your journey in the depths of earth, and try to work your way out in an attempt to save your life. The lava rises as you go, and the Volcano God isn’t going to let you escape easily. You play as Colonel Charlie Bravo, and are armed to deal with the tiki minions that try to block your way. Volcano Escape is a 2.5D endless platformer, meaning the platforms are in 3D, but with a 2D background. Volcano Escape also offers dual stick controls, and a jump button. The game is similar to Monster Dash, but with a vertical perspective rather than horizontal. You jump between rock pieces, and blast away enemies as you try to outrun the lava. When you kill an enemy it can act as a platform to help your ascent. The game offers up a different layout every time you play. Since you begin in the same spot the varying layout does offer a little change of pace. There are all kinds of power-ups including jet-packs, a spring jump, and more powerful weapons. As you rise there are new enemies that are larger and can fly making it tougher to get by. You have three hearts, but if the lava gets you it’s instant game over. Throughout the volcano there are considerable gaps, so the double jump is extremely important. Also included are five unlockable characters, but they only change the look, and not the gameplay. It’s nice to have something to work for, but they give you no special abilities or advantages. Volcano Escape is more challenging than the typical casual game. There are a lot of ways to get injured or lose completely. The toughest aspect of the game is the control system, which hinder more than help. The main problem is that the jump button, and shoot joystick are right on top of each other. This makes it hard for the game to know whether you are hitting jump or fire. On occasion you'll fire when you mean to jump. This becomes more noticeable when attempting a double jump with the lava on your heels. Ultimately leading to an untimely death. Also the joysticks are not precise making aiming difficult. The controls take up a big portion of the screen, and can block the view of upcoming enemies. You can choose to hide the joysticks, but then the jumping problem mentioned above is more apparent. Over time the controls did become more comfortable, but were still problematic. Even with perfect controls the game itself is rather repetitive as you’re always climbing up the volcano shaft. I mean, you can only do it so many times! The gameplay isn’t engaging enough for high replayability. The game pace is on the slower side so the frantic nature of the genre isn’t as present. The Game Center scores and achievements, plus the unlockable characters are nice, but won’t keep you coming back. The 2.5D game engine with retina quality graphics is definitely nice to see. The detail in the volcano background and characters is top notch as well. The background music fits the game style with the tribal beat. The problem is that well made visuals and sounds don’t make up for the gameplay problems. Volcano Escape ($1.99, iPhone) looks good on the surface, but as you delve deeper into its crust you'll find a frustrating control scheme. To make matters worse the gameplay is slow and repetitive. Volcano Escape is not worth the price of admission, since there are better endless games in the App Store. The game lacks any fire, and just gives off brimstone.