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For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone

Spook, line, and sinker

Product: Spooklands | Developer: Luderia | Format: iPad | Genre: Action, Shooter | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Spooklands iPad, thumbnail 1
The very best shooters suck you in and you hold you in their arcade fingers until you've lost all track of time, until all there is is the high score table and the waves of enemies.

Spooklands manages to do that with aplomb. It's not perfect, and sometimes its control scheme feels like it's working against you, but there are moments of pure exploding bliss to be found here.

It's gorgeous, it's hard as nails, and you'll lose hours in its rhythmic, arena-based battles. You'll also swear a lot, but that's fine.

Spooky scary

You play as a lone gunman taking on waves of massive bad guys. There are three different arenas, each with its own protagonist and enemy types.

For the first few goes you're a caveman tossing axes at prehistoric beasts. Then you're a kid throwing shoes at huge spiders. Lastly you're a mage hurling skulls at wights and other demons.

A tap on the screen chucks a shot in that direction, and the recoil from the blow pushes you back. Push down and then release to use your weapon's secondary, more explosive mode of fire.

And that's all there is to it. You bounce around the arena using your offensive taps to move around. Power-ups pop up in the middle of play and you can grab them to use a different weapon for a while.

Score enough and you'll unlock the next chunk of the game. There are new weapons and buffs to claim as well, depending how well you score.

Spook up your ideas

It's tough going as well. The simplicity of the controls means once you're surrounded it's easy to lose all three of your hearts in a matter of seconds. You do become invincible for a while after you've taken a hit, and an explosion clears the area too.

But you can blast yourself into the path of an oncoming wave if you're not careful with your aim, so you need to make sure that your next shot isn't going to end up killing you.

Sometimes it's worth ignoring the power-ups if there are too many enemies on the screen, but a few well placed taps can kill everything and drop that super-weapon into your arsenal.

The risk and reward mechanics at play here make for some truly compulsive shooting. Do you clear those spiders with simple taps, or charge up a shot to take them all out but risk bouncing off a wall into any of the critters that you might have missed?

Axe him yourself

The game looks wonderful, all chunky sprites with pixel thick drool sloshing down gaping maws. Learning to control the different weapons is key to success, but rounds rarely last more than a couple of minutes.

The difficulty will be a little sharp for some people, but if you can get over that hump you'll find a raucous, energetic game that isn't afraid to hurl seemingly insurmountable odds in your direction.

This is the shooter distilled for a touchscreen. It doesn't always work, and there are moments when you'll howl in frustration. But when Spooklands gets things right, it's a real joy.
Reviewer photo
Harry Slater | 25 August 2014
A bright, shiny arcade blaster with a cartoon swagger and enough challenge to keep shooter fans grinning maniacally
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