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Dark Incursion

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Pitch black

Product: Dark Incursion | Publisher: Big Blue Bubble | Format: Android | Genre: Adventure | Players: 1 | File size: 43.9MB | Version: Europe
Dark Incursion Android, thumbnail 1
Metroid seems like a perfect fit for the mobile. Who wouldn't want to delve into an elaborate alien labyrinth on the go? Maybe do a little item-hunting on the bus. Or backtrack your steps while a man who smells faintly of urine hums the theme to Mission Impossible on the last tube home?

Dark Incursion tries to fill that gap, effectively emulating the fuzzy feeling that games like Super Metroid and Castlevania elicit. With its explore-'em-up concept, sizable world to pillage, and pixel-art visuals, it slots quite snugly into the portmanteau genre of Metroidvania.

But scratch beneath the surface of the title's bizarro-steampunk take on Victorian England and you'll start to realise that this game isn't quite the mobile Metroid you might have expected.

Dawn of Sorrow

We'll come back to that. In Dark Incursion you play as Anya, a busty secret agent who's infiltrating a secret military lab. The boffins in this underground lair are developing some naughty biological weapons, as they are wont to do, so it's up to Anya to break in, kill some baddies, and shut down the plant.

She's equipped with a gun and a sword, which let her tackle Dark Incursion's fleet of enemies - including soldiers and robots - up close and from afar. You'll need to be agile and quick on your feet, making sure you duck beneath enemy fire and leap to a higher vantage point to down flying drones.

The combat is sharp and dynamic, and over the course of the game a number of new enemy types emerge. You'll need to wait patiently for soldier with bulky shields to come out of hiding, and keep well back from self-destructive bots.

Symphony of the Fight

But the fighting is often let down by some dodgy controls. Take the virtual joystick, for example, which rides so high up the screen that your thumb is constantly hitting the 'duck' command, leaving Anya in a silly squatting position every few seconds.

And then there's the 'jump' button, which is tiny and hidden in the very corner, making it all-too-easy to miss with a wild jab of the thumb. Fluffed jumps are a common occurrence during Dark Incursion's more platform-focused parts.

Even an update that allegedly "fixed" the controls has left Anya unresponsive and unreliable. This game's combat requires fast reflexes and some serious dexterity, and while some developers have managed to make it work on a touchscreen Big Blue Bubble hasn't quite solved it.

When she's not fighting, Anya is looking for collectible fuses to slot in her chunky power bracelets. These boost her stats - a beefier gun, for instance, does more damage from afar, while a speedy fuse lets her sprint at a faster clip. There are ones that up defence and ones that improve your sword slash and ones that let you root through drawers faster.

Portrait of Ruin

The catch is that the fuses expire over time, so you'll need to constantly change your boosts and look for fresh fuses to stay powered up. It's a neat mechanic that stops you becoming completely overpowered and forces you to alter your play style all the time.

It doesn't work so well for a pair of elemental powers: an icy one that creates a handy frozen platform and an electrical one that kicks dud generators into action. These are required to get through certain bits, but if their power has been gobbled up while fighting you won't be able to advance until you go back and find a replacement. Is it just ill-thought-out design, or artificial lengthening?

It can't be the latter, since the game ends really quickly. Really really quickly. No sooner are you getting into the game than the words "to be continued" pop up on the screen and the credits begin to roll from the bottom.

If Nintendo lets you see Samus in her knickers for speed-running Metroid in three hours, I want to see some serious skin for ending Dark Incursion in 50 minutes. The description makes no mention of its episodic nature and fails to tell you whether you'll need to pay for more or whether it will be free. Whatever the case, it's an unfinished game.

There's no map, either. Perhaps that was by design, to hide the pitifully small universe you can explore, but it certainly makes backtracking hard. It leaves you lost if you pick up the game after a few days without playing, especially since almost every room uses the same set of textures and furniture.

So, while it might try its darnedest to feel like Castlevania on your iPhone, Dark Incursion doesn't have the goods to back up its ambitious front. The world is just too tiny, the game just too short, and the controls just too imprecise.
Dark Incursion
Reviewer photo
Mark Brown | 28 October 2011
Dark Incursion is a promising game with smart combat and a wonderful style, but control issues, a small map, and a short playtime just make it feel incomplete
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