Video Games

iOS Review: 10000000

“I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god-damn spine!”  – Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards in The Running Man

If I did a time study of my video gaming habits, I suspect I’d find that I do most of it on my iPod Touch these days. That’s not a knock against consoles or PC gaming, more just a matter of logistics; I like being able to just reach into my pocket during a moment of free time or boredom and get a quick hit of digital crack. It’s like carrying a portable, germ-laden arcade around with me.

10000000’s peculiar marketing strategy: it doesn’t want you to know what it is or what it’s about.

With that in mind, I’d argue that the games that most take advantage of the iOS platform are those that can deliver quick doses of compelling game play before being unceremoniously shoved back into a sweaty pocket. Roguelike games–once an extremely obscure PC RPG/strategy subgenre wherein players tried to survive as long as possible in an unforgiving dungeon-crawling environment–have found new life on portables by providing just that.

You’d never know it—or anything else about it, really–from it’s name, but 10000000 is a roguelike RPG at heart. That means you should expect a masochistic and occasionally frustrating experience as you fail over and over again, hopefully getting a bit farther each time. You play as a seemingly immortal prisoner who has been locked away inside a 2D side scrolling dungeon, never to return. That is, unless your high score equals the game’s title, at which point you are rewarded with Freedom.

Though famous for breathing fire and kidnapping virgins, dragons are also prodigious shovers and make excellent linemen.

Where 10000000 really distinguishes itself from its brethren is in eschewing the genre’s more strategic elements in favor of high-pressure tactical puzzle solving. Your Indiana Jonesque character jogs through the dungeon at the top of the screen, picking up momentum until he’s stopped short by one of three obstacles: a monster, a treasure chest or a door. Each of these drags retro-Indy to the left edge of the screen. If he’s pushed off the screen, his run is over. Monsters represent a particular dangerous threat; every time they attack you, they “damage” you by pushing you even farther back.

Luckily, you’re armed with puzzle powers for just such occasions. Your 8×7 grid contains a randomly generated array of weapon attacks, magic spells, keys, shields and resources. By dragging a column or row up or down, you can match three or more symbols to generate their effect. Weapons and spells damage enemies, keys open chests and doors, shields provide a buffer against monster attacks and resources are collected to upgrade your prison cell. Additional resources like gold and experience are generated from overcoming obstacles rather than matching tiles. Larger matches and chains of matches can deal tons of damage or unlock multiple locks in one move.

The experience is frenetic. You’ll always want to be matching something to keep the board from clogging up with useless chaff; a board full of backpacks is bad news when a ninja is slowly shurikening you back to your cell. Even so, there will be times where you look on helplessly while lil’ Indy takes a beating worse than the one he got from that mustache Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Normally that kind of helpless defeat would be fuel for an iPhone-tossing tantrum, but 10000000 softens the blow by making all of your failed runs profitable. You can use all those resources you accumulated to trick out your poorly guarded prison cell with the latest in gear-enhancing décor. Those ninjas won’t be laughing once you’ve sharpened your pocket knife into an Unstoppable Unobtainum Katana (yes, that’s what it’s called). These upgrades are the slice of delicious cheese that lures you into “just one more run” through the rat grinder.

This week on Cribs: how to turn your prison toilet into a posh alchemy lab.

How you feel about 10000000’s presentation will depend upon how you feel about retro aesthetics. Once you get past the Unity game engine splash screen, the game looks and sounds like it crawled out of the 80s with its pixelated sprites and chiptunes. Both of these are competently done and complement the game’s hyperactive, abstract game play. I could imagine playing this game in a dank and dirty arcade 27 years ago.

Ultimately, 10000000 is one of a small but growing group of games that really understands and takes advantage of its platform. It’s a quick, smart and maddening little app that successfully tears through genre boundaries to create something unique. At $1.99, there’s no excuse not to give it a shot.

4 out of 4

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