The more you have to suffer for something, the more you are able to find pleasure in the consummation. At least, that’s what my old dominatrix used to say. Difficulty is a double-edged sword, and doubly so in the case of the recent iPhone port of XBLIG title Soul, from Kydos Studio.
On the one hand, completing a stage will compel you to sound your barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the world in triumph. On the other hand, getting to that point may compel you to buy a much thicker case to protect your iPhone from your impulse to launch it out the window. Read on to learn more about this cruel portable mistress.
The conceit for this iPhone title remains the same as its XBL Indie counterpart, which was adroitly covered by our very own Ashley King. The game plan is simple: you must guide a soul through narrow paths and past demonic obstacles in order to reach Heaven.
The well-executed and unique art style for the environments from the console version translate well to the iPhone. This game still looks sharp, and the settings complement the gameplay.
Nothing is lost visually in the platform translation, including the fact that a human soul apparently looks exactly like a hadouken from Street Fighter. This of course begs the canonical question of where Ken and Ryu learned necromancy during their training.
On the gameplay end, the objectives remain the same. Each stage requires you to navigate the soul to an exit. Touching anything solid, be it monster or environment, results in having to restart the level. Think of it as Operation in electronic form, which is easy to do if you play with your iPhone’s vibrate function on.
The real difference between the two versions of Soul is the control scheme. In the XBL Indie version, movement is controlled with a single analog stick. I applaud Kydos for not falling in the common trap of just slapping a touch-screen version of an analog or d-pad control on their port and calling it a day; they really looked for an interesting way to use the iPhone functionality, and they succeeded.
Rather than engage the touchscreen at all, Kydos instead chose to utilize the iPhone’s accelerometer for controlling the soul. The game plays by keeping the iPhone flat and tilting to move through the environment. This was a smart move on the developer’s part. Touch controls would have just gotten in the way of the visuals, which are one of the game’s strongest charms.
The direction of movement is determined by the way you tilt the phone, and the velocity is determined by how far you tilt it. Anyone who has ever played with those old wooden labyrinths where you had to control the tilt of the floor to guide a metal sphere around walls and holes to the end point will experience a sudden wave of nostalgia. I was delighted at first to interact with the controls.
The drawback to this control scheme, however, is that it takes an already borderline insane difficulty level and proceeds to crank it up to 11. Finding the center point where the soul is at rest is often problematic, which makes it extremely difficult to pull back from an obstacle or correct your course in time.
Their tilt controls just aren’t as responsive or precise as an analog stick, which results in many additional deaths. Don’t even think about playing this game on the bus or on the road where a single jostle can end a carefully executed run. The patience and steadiness required to succeed at this game may turn many gamers off.
All this being said, the comic book art style and satisfaction at overcoming such daunting challenges still provide compelling reasons to pick up and play Soul. Ultimately, your ability to enjoy this game will be directly proportional to the degree which you enjoy pain mixed in with your pleasure.
From a gameplay perspective, Soul is not a wholesome girl next door. However, if you’re twisted enough that a little punishment pushes your buttons, there’s enough there to make it worth the hot wax treatment at $1.99. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a long shower, curl up in the fetal position for a bit, and have a good cry.
Gamer Limit gives Soul for the iPhone a 7/10.