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Patron Angel

For: Mobile

On a wing and a player

Product: Patron Angel | Developer: Rovio | Publisher: Rovio | Format: Mobile | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1 | Format: J2ME | File size: 438KB | Reviewed on: K800i other handsets | Version: Europe
Patron Angel Mobile, thumbnail 1
It doesn't take much to change something's meaning. A gun, for instance, is an instrument of pain and warfare, but long-haired peaceniks subverted this by threading a daisy down the barrel, turning it from a killing device into an elaborate vase.

Likewise, with Patron Angel developer Rovio has made a small tweak to the top-down shooter formula to change its essence from the undiluted violence of games like Galaxy on Fire to something almost identical but infinitely more benign.

You play as Lucia, an angel charged with the protection of a small, endlessly imperilled child called Sam. Some bizarre introductory screens mete out just enough of the plot to let you know that somebody is after Sam, and you need to shepherd him out of danger.

Then: action. Flying just above the yellow ball of Sam's head, it's your job simply to make sure he survives. In typical shooter style, baddies appear in formation and fire missiles in sequence, launching clusters of fireballs or long strings of spinning rocks. The twist is, instead of firing them at you they fire them at Sam, who blunders on oblivious, his health bar slowly dropping as he goes.

To reach the end of each level with Sam intact, you need to position yourself between him and whatever's making its way towards him. Fireballs cause you no harm, but boulders and red missiles kill you, and the droids and henchmen who deploy them are constantly circling.

So just as a flower in the barrel of a gun won't keep stop the bullet from blowing your head off, the vulnerable child at the centre of the screen is an eye in the storm of Patron Angel's formation-based, big-bulleted gunplay. Its essence is protection, but destruction is all around.

Since you can't absorb all of the missiles, you'll need to kill the people firing them. This entails simply putting them in your sights: the game automatically fires the crackling beam of Lucia's divine laser, liquidating whoever gets in the way. Beside the beam, you can also fly over power-ups to collect weapons such as the Soul Wind, which blows enemies away, and the Soul Space, which sucks enemies and bullets into a black hole.

As the story unfolds, you learn there are two planes, mortal and immortal, with some obstacles proving hazardous to Sam in the former and some to you in the latter. Play is therefore a constant process of deliberation about who needs to be protected most, of deciding whether to weave through a wave of deadly reds to protect Sam from a few yellows, or whether to let him take the bumps for the sake of his protector.

But because Sam moves inexorably forwards, flying missiles aren't the only threat to his survival. As you advance through the game you start to encounter ground-based hazards, such as mashing machines that rhythmically slam shut. For some reason – unforgivably – Rovio has programmed Sam to always walk into these, even when open space surrounds them. The only way you can save him is by launching boulders into his path (with '5') and forcing him to take safe routes.

So, why are the forces of evil after Sam? Why are you protecting him? Well, it turns out that Sam is heir to the Golden Throne, and if he sits on it goodness will ensue. Lucifer, the bad guy, is opposed to goodness, so he's out to kill Sam by means of bosses, obstacles, and serried ranks of blundering goons.

Only you can decide whether Lucifer will succeed. Will you make your way through the whole game, or will you give up and leave Patron Angel's cartoon universe to the demons? Rovio's signature high-visual standard encourages you to stick with the goodly program; the range of power-ups borders on exciting, and the unusual mechanic of defence and offence positively begs you to see it through.

However, while some of Patron Angel is great, the shooter that surrounds it isn't up to much at all. Sam's actions are inane, the patterns in which the baddies appear are arbitrary, and without the essentials fully refined, the protection-based gameplay twist feels like the special ingredient in cake whose other ingredients are growing slightly stale. This is well worth a bite, but we can't promise you'll finish it.
Patron Angel
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 5 August 2007
The protect-the-sprite concept behind Patron Angel is innovative and works well to a point, but the rest of the action doesn't really do the concept justice
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