[Indie Spotlight is your periodic coverage on various popular iPhone games]
Good games entertain us for a while, keep us intrigued until we are done and we place them back on the shelf, rarely or never to be played again. The downloadable game marketplace on all systems is rapidly growing, and the sentimental value of a cheap plastic case on the book shelf may be nearing extinction. Good games go back to the shelf, but great games stick with us for a long time.
Last Cannon is one of those great games.
Style is a hard thing to achieve for games that are released on platforms that are primarily aimed at a casual audience, like the iPhone. Shadiradio’s Last Cannon absolutely oozes with style, and it is a theme I have only experienced deep within classic RPGs. That’s saying a lot for a 99 cent game, and it’s usually not a noticeable element.
The journal is only a few short pages long and it tells the story of an alien invasion, with your cannon being the last to stand and defend earth. Although a generic story, the little bit of background only adds to the dark tone of Last Cannon.
The goal of Last Cannon is to defend yourself against a never ending wave of enemies (Knurlings) who are trying to destroy your flags. Similar to Missile Command, enemies come from the top of the screen in hope to kamikaze themselves into the ground.
Story aside, the game becomes progressively more challenging throughout various parts of the game. The difficulty ramps up at a tolerable rate, but occasionally, players will find the start of a new difficulty level for reasons unknown. If you’ve ever played a missile command clone or anything similar there is no learning curve whatsoever.
Apart from your primary cannon, you’re equipped with a laser that can change the color of the Knurlings. The color changes make it possible to combo large groups together. Detonating a cannon blast will kill all the Knurlings of the same color within contact of each other. For example, a red knurling will only explode other red ones around it when directly hit. Clearing the screen with a devastating shot isn’t a rare site, and it’s extremely satisfying.
If the action is a little too cumbersome, there’s a super weapon that obliterates anything on screen; it can only be recharged by killing more Knurlings. Conserving ammo, as well as trying to combine large groups of Knurlings, is tricky, but after a few beefy combos, ammo is no longer an issue.
My golden iPhone rule is “the game must control right.” Last Cannon can be played with either swipe or tilt controls. Funnily enough, you’ll actually want to use the accelerometer to aim as opposed to swiping the screen. Shooting and upgrading weapons are all done with on screen buttons, which although look like they are a little close together, there isn’t an issue of accidentally depleting powerful weapons at inconvenient times.
Last Cannon is one of the most visually impressive game that I’ve seen on the iPhone platform. It’s not due to thousands of polygons or shiny HD graphics. The characters and weapons are simple and engaging while consisting of fantastic animations. The dark colors and rigid angles give a “Nightmare Before Chistmas” vibe that mesh well with the clever writing and polished style, which so many iPhone games lack.
The thing that really grabbed me was the eerie music that plays when Last Cannon is launched. It really completes the atmosphere, which is surprising. It has no level progression, story line or any other character but yourself. Last Cannon’s implied storyline is one of the greatest on the app store, if no the best.
The app store is starting to show its true colors. Just like console gaming and film, there’s always those games and movies that step out of the norm and ‘wow’ us. Last Cannon’s individual art style and clever twist on a common gameplay element make it as one of the best apps on the store.
Shadiradio’s Last Cannon: 9/10