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Antipole - DSiWare Review

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DSiWare | Saturnine Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
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2nd August 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

The first game put out by Saturnine Games for this platform was just an okay game by my standards. It presented some interesting ideas, but on the whole, their shmup just didn't measure up in the long haul. Back for another round, Saturnine Games has come out with Antipole, a game that originally released on the Xbox Live Arcade some time ago. Does Antipole fall in the same category as the developer's first title?

    With a generic premise, Antipole does just fine without a long-winded story. Well-rooted in an arcade-style approach but with its own partially-futuristic, yet modern atmosphere, the title is simple from a conceptual standpoint. Using the central mechanic of gravity manipulation with the press of a single button, you guide the red-cloaked character across platforms and ceilings towards the goal at the end of each level. There are no false pretenses here: Antipole has one gimmick that rules over everything, with little formula expansions to be seen. Never surprising, the game follows a predictable flow with little snippets of variety to be had every now and again.

    The default controls are very simple. Use the D-Pad for movement, the B Button to jump, Y to fire your Pulse Gun, and use R to manipulate gravity. If you're not a fan of the button placement, you can head to the Options Menu and change the controls to your liking. It was nice to see Saturnine Games included this convenient feature yet again with their second DSiWare release. 

    Gravity control is limited to a gauge located at the top of the screen that wisely only becomes refilled when you land on safe ground. If it were left up to a gradual replenishment over time, the difficulty level would surely have been minimized. Also interesting is the fact that almost all enemies are affected by whatever changes in gravity take place. Upon activating your reverse-gravity power, a red circle will appear around your character showing what objects are directly affected by the change.

Gameplay setup is very traditional. Players have multiple hearts containers allowing them to sustain multiple hits -- five on Normal, three on Hard. In playing 
Antipole's main levels, each area is split up into segments that also act as automatic checkpoints (most of them, anyway). You come to appreciate this feature more and more as you get closer to the final boss as levels will, unsurprisingly, become more challenging to clear without dying a few times along the way. In each level contains three green coins that can go towards unlocking bonus levels under the Challenges Menu. These are usually easy to acquire, but a handful of them can prove to be a bit more challenging if you don't have multiple hearts preparing you for some brief damage intake. On the Touch Screen, you have two boxes that show your current time and a target time you can aim for. But more on target times later.

    The enemies on display here are both basic and small in number. Some enemies float in the air, launch missiles from up above, fire lasers in your direction, or just jump around aimlessly. Using gravity against these characters, like sending them into a pit of spikes is a technique you'll employ on countless occasions, though it doesn't feel to be all that satisfying. On your first few tries, you can feel good about being in control of your surroundings, but these initial feels do wear off. After a while, it gets to be a bit samey seeing the same enemies over and over with you using the same methods without giving it much thought. The small spider robots seen in the later levels can control gravity as well, so that helps make gameplay less of a coast.

    Players can expect to face four boss battles in total, with half of these being very easy and the other half being kind of challenging. Specifically though, I thought the Defense Tower boss was a bit messy with everything that was going on at once. But overall, they're not bad. Aside from boss encounters, what little variety that's seen comes from the level designs. In some stages, you'll push blocks along with you to open laser-activated doors at the end of a stretch, while in other cases, gravity can be used to guide an enemy across a series of platforms for the same purpose. There are also high- and low-gravity situations, as well as levels that feature acid where the use of gravity can lead to your demise if you don't have good timing as you jump across gaps. 

    The reality is that most of the levels do feel samey, but not to the point where I'd describe the game as being completely repetitive. These scenarios do, ultimately, make the overall experience a bit more entertaining, but the individual levels don't really present noteworthy ideas or puzzles.

    When I first started playing, I felt after a while that the main character would sometimes go too fast, causing you to run into an enemy suddenly with little warning that there's any kind of obstacle there. It was as if you were supposed to somehow anticipate enemies and just be ready to put on the brakes, but it doesn't quite work like that in practice. But you do come to adjust with this minor flaw to the point that this no longer becomes an issue.

    As for the game's overall look, Antipole doesn't do much to offend or impress. It merely rests in the middle, with levels that look fine, and music that sounds suitable I suppose. Although Saturnine Games has done a good gesture by making the game's soundtrack available, there's probably only one song that's actually worth listening to outside the game.

    Antipole shouldn't take too much of your time to beat in its entirety. On my first run-through, I may have spent like an hour and a half, but by comparison, it took about an hour on my second go. If you're wondering about replay value in this game, don't be too concerned. Antipole features two difficulty settings -- with the latter amplifying the difficulty considerably -- as well as achievement-like Awards to strive after. Then there are the challenges I mentioned earlier which are, ironically, not that challenging to get medals on. 

Additional modes of play include an Unlimited Gravity option, which probably won't see much playtime, and a Triple Weapon mode that becomes unlocked if you beat the game once and Cosmos X2 is currently on your system. It's a nice touch, allowing you to switch between three different weapons based off the developer's first game. But once again, this mode doesn't increase the replay value that much in my opinion. All in all, the length is fair, and while the replay value may not be that high, spending $5 on this is hardly a crime.

    I can safely say that although I did encounter one or two mildly-irritating levels, the difficulty level is just about right for this kind of experience. A more important question, though, is whether or not Antipole is an enjoyable romp? Well, going for the target times is where you'll experience the most amount of fun. When playing with this focus in mind, the straight-forwardness and the samey feelings stemming from the level designs are neutralized a tad, with the overall pace helping out in this regard. But I don't think the game is a lot of fun or anything. It's one of those games that you'll plow through and not really think about it much after you've seen it to completion.

    If you're looking for a memorable experience that you'll reminisce about positively in the future, Antipole probably won't do much for you. If, however, you're a fan of arcade-style games and can appreciate simplicity, then give Antipole a try. It's not going to win any awards, but for $5 it's a safe purchase.

20/30 - Okay/Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Simple controls, changes in gravity affect enemies as well, samey level designs, traditional setup, some levels switch it up a bit, boss fights
Presentation 6/10 - Suitable music but the majority aren't worth listening to outside the game, decent visuals, nothing special
Enjoyment 2/5 - Difficulty is just right, most fun when speeding through levels to clear time requirements, otherwise a pretty average experience
Extra Content 5/5 - Won't take long to complete, additional modes to unlock, challenges to complete, features a bonus mode for owners of Cosmos X2

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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