At first glance one might be inclined to dismiss Chaotic Box’s newest game Silverfish as just another Tilt to Live or Geometry Wars clone, but to do so would be not only be incorrect, but foolish as well. While Silverfish certainly has game play elements which are similar to these titles, it offers a much different, almost retro feel. Chaotic Box has dubbed the game a “Stylish Modern-Retro Action Arcade Game” and I’m not sure that I could have said it better myself!
Your number one objective is to stay alive as long as possible. You navigate your Silverfish around the play area using swiping motions to move left, right, up and down, restricted to an invisible grid, while trying to avoid (and destroy) all manner of luminescent baddie bug that comes your way. These phosphorescent pests include Grubs, Claws, Flocker, Gliders, Dozers, Spawns (my mortal enemies) and more. Each species has their own characteristics and movement patterns. Depending on the game mode (I’ll get to these in a bit) you basically have three weapons at your disposal, your POW bar, Bombs and Time Shocks. Your POW bar is filled up by collecting the randomly appearing round glowing orange orbs called Power Pods. When you collide with a Power Pod, there is a small explosion which destroys nearby enemies, turning them into several small proton particles which can be collected for bonus points. Once again, depending on the game mode (don’t worry I really am getting to these), you can detonate massively destructive Bombs or slow time with a Time Shock simply by tapping two fingers on the screen.
As I mentioned earlier, your movement is restricted to a hidden grid-like pattern. It is these restrictions which I felt really added to the retro charm of the game and give it some of its unique character. Despite the fact that Silverfish is controlled by a series of swiping motions (instead of tilt or dual virtual d-pads), I couldn’t help be reminded a bit of the good old Atari 2600 joystick which really limited any sort of diagonal movement. As you might imagine the swipe controls do take a bit of time to get used to, but once you get the hang of if it, you’ll be turning on a dime and weaving through bugs like a pro.
Silverfish currently offers a choice of 3 game modes, Reaper, Onslaught and Scavenger (my favorite), with the promise of more on the way. There are somewhat subtle differences between the three and I do find myself constantly re-reading the help screen to remember which is which is which. Reaper plays a lot like a game of Pac-Man, but with a whole heck of a lot more ghosts! You start out with one life at 50% POW and three Time Shock power ups. Your POW drains over time (or if you hit an enemy), so you need to navigate the grid, avoiding bugs, collecting Power Pods to recharge your POW to stay alive. Once your POW is fully charged, you become temporarily invincible and can eat your enemies. Sound familiar?
Scavenger mode also starts you with one life, but at 100% POW and gives you three initial Bomb power ups. Play is similar except there is no invincibility when you are at max POW, just the ability to earn bonus points. This mode also offers a completely different set of enemies to those in Reaper mode. Finally, Onslaught mode starts you off with four lives and three Bombs. In this mode there is no POW meter, so when you get hit, you lose a life, plain and simple. Well, not so simple, as this mode contains all of the enemies from both of the other game modes!
The art team at Chaotic Box has done a fantastic job and game sports some really stunning Retina Display graphics and animations. The glow effect around your Silverfish looks absolutely brilliant. While swiping away, your ears will be treated to a perfectly suited retro, techno dance soundtrack that at times gives you the feeling like your are in the ocean in outer space. Game Center is the only social media platform that the game supports for leaderboards and achievements, so this means owners of older devices are out of luck.
The endurance or “last longest” genre on the iPhone is a crowded one, and for good reason, these games are fun! Although when do you say enough is enough? Fortunately Chaotic Box has done a very nice job at combining fresh with familiar and creating a new and unique experience that ultimately feels like a reboot of an old classic. To answer my own question, as long as titles like Silverfish keep coming along to help freshen up the genre, I’ll continue to buy endurance games. Any fans of Tilt to Live looking for something that is a bit more “hands-on” give Silverfish a go, you won’t be disappointed.