Thursday, October 11, 2012

Polara [Hope This Works Games] - $0.99

As time moves on, the Runner genre is getting more and more interesting. Considering most running/auto-running platformer games out there only have one or two button controls, the amount of complexity that can be found within the genre is very impressive. Hope This Works Game’s newest title, Polara, definitely falls into that impressive category. Since we saw the trailer for this Ikaruga inspired runner, we’ve been incredibly psyched about it’s release, and now that it’s out, and we’ve got our hands on it, we haven’t been let down. In fact, it’s even more impressive than we thought it would be. 

Polara’s story follows Agent Lara, a tester for a new type of suit that can pass through the city’s defense system. While testing this suit, Lara is contacted by the outside rebels, learning some potentially disturbing news, and decides to help them in their cause. Now, I should let you all know; I’m a huge sucker for cyberpunk/near future/down with the establishment type stuff. Larry Niven, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, I eat their books up like an addict, always wanting more. So, I know that has a pretty big influence on how much I’m enjoying the story and setting for Polara. But even aside from that, it’s a fantastically challenging and well designed game offering up some great gameplay and multiple modes to try and master.

 In fact, there’s 7. 7 different gameplay modes - The Campaign/Story and 6 more endless modes; Random Normal, Random Hard, Random Insane, Gravity Wave, Super Speed and Switch, each offering different mechanics to mess around with and try and conquer, not to mention the GameCenter leaderboards for each of the 6 endless modes that you can try and climb. 50 levels are included in the Story Mode, with story scenes and bosses every 10 stages. As you make your way through each level, you’ll need to change the color of Lara’s suit between Blue and Red, matching the lasers, projectiles and other objects that are thrown at you throughout the game. Polara also keeps track of how many deaths you’ve had in each stage, with GameCenter achievements for making it through 10, 25, and all levels flawlessly. Controls are handled by tapping on the left side of the screen to change between red and blue colors, and the right side to jump, which can also be switched in the options menu. 

Once you complete a level, you’re able to go back and collect the letters POLARA and a Special Item. Doing this will require some quick thinking and fast reflexes, as you’ll need to match the color of the letters in order to collect them, almost always switching colors multiple times while in the air to do so, and almost always making a jump that would otherwise result in certain death to collect the special item. With the mix of rotating multi-colored rings, enemies that fire various projectiles, objects that increase your speed or send you into a super jump and many more hazards and nifty objects to weave and switch colors through, it can get incredibly challenging and difficult, though never frustrating. The controls are incredibly responsive, and every time you die, you’ll be cursing yourself for not being quick enough, never at the game. 

As you complete the Story Mode stages and go back to collect the POLARA letters and special items, you’ll start to unlock the various other endless modes. Random Normal is already unlocked once you start the game for the first time, but Gravity Wave unlocks after you collect 8 special items, Random Hard unlocks after collecting 10 POLARA’s and reaching 2,000 meters in Random Normal and Random Insane unlocking with 40 POLARA’s and 2,000 meters in Random Hard. The last two modes will unlock once you collect between 20 and 30 POLARA and 16 to 24 special items. Each extra mode focuses on certain objects and hazards from the Story Mode, with Random Normal comprised of all of the regular hazards and mechanics from the Story, Hard is full of all of the harder to get through sections, and Insane is one long string of the hardest sections in Story Mode. Gravity Wave is one section of gravity shifting parts after another. Having your suit change to blue switches gravity, while red makes gravity normal. Super Speed contains all of the sped up sections and Switch, well, you guessed it, requires a WHOLE LOT of switching colors. 

The graphics and animations are fantastic. The cut scenes are made up of beautifully hand painted artwork, helping to set the scene and atmosphere perfectly for the gameplay and story. The background cityscapes look amazing as you’re running past them and the dark color scheme helps to add to the dark feeling of the game while also helping to make the blue and red lasers stand out incredibly well. Animations for Lara, the lasers, enemies and bosses are also great, with multiple animations for jumping along with very smooth animations for slowing down and sliding across surfaces. 

GameCenter includes 32 achievements, most of which will provide a great challenge for 100% completionists, and the 6 leaderboards definitely help to drive the replay value for the Endless Modes. There is no board for the Campaign, but trying to get through each of the 50 levels without dying will take most players multiple playthroughs, not to mention the POLARA and Special items that you'll be able to collect on your second time through each level. In short, there's endless replay value, and score-chasing opportunities within a great amount of content. 

There are ads in-game, but only on the loading screens, and only for Hope This Works other title, Kunundrum. You do not have to exit the ads to progress, and they do not pop up anywhere else in the game. The addition of the Kunundrum ad has helped to keep Polara priced at $0.99, and considering it contains absolutely no IAPs and is Universal, it definitely stands out within the genre. With all of the content and crazy amount of replay value, not to mention the polish within the graphics, environment and story, but also the smoothness of gameplay, even on lower end devices, this $0.99 launching price is a fantastic deal. If you’re a fan of runners, or auto-running platformers, and yes, there is plenty of platforming that can be found in Polara, this is definitely a game you need to pick up. Even if you aren’t a fan of, or use to be a fan of runners, Polara has the potential to make you a fan, or bring you back to the genre. The color changing mechanic and way that it’s used (not feeling like just a gimmick in any sense) adds a ton to the otherwise over saturated genre. 


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