Wednesday, November 5, 2008

iPhone Series: Soul Trapper: Episode 1

Soul Trapper is a very unique game for the iPhone and iPod Touch that is like nothing that is currently on the market. While this is most definitely a game, the gameplay takes a back seat to the story telling, which is very good, although a bit out there. So sit back, find a comfortable seat, and get ready for a ride to hell and back.

Soul Trapper starts out by introducing you to the main character, Kane Pryce, who is in possession of a very special device, the Soul Trap, which allows him to capture and then talk to and transport ghosts. The story starts with you at a barn, with a ghost attacking and starting a fire, so you have to have your wits with you if you hope to find a means to put out the fire or capture the ghost.

The game plays like a text adventure, except without the text. Kane will either be narrating or talking to another character and he’ll let you know what kinds of things are in the vicinity and where you can travel. Also, you can look at a map of your options to see where you can go. When you are allowed to walk around, you will be directed with up to four arrows, which you can choose from. For some reason though, they decided not to put little notes underneath the arrows, so you’ll have to switch back and forth from map to arrows to make sure you know where you’re going, but this only takes a few taps of the screen so it isn’t a big deal, but just something to note.

Those green buttons are the directions you can take to travel. You can hit the menu button to adjust the volume or go back to the title screen, or the map button to view the level's map and rooms/areas. And that background is static for the entire chapter.

Unlike a text adventure though, you don’t have any items at your disposal. There are some points where you can find items, but they are very particular items that can only be used automatically once in a specific location, so there is no real thought put in. This seems to be a general trend throughout the game; that you don’t have to really think to achieve anything.

You can only travel to different rooms in a certain location, so you don’t have to worry about traveling from place to place and finding the right place to go, and like I just mentioned, you don’t have to worry about finding items or where or how to use them. Also, while there are some parts where you get to choose what to ask characters, you have to ask all of the questions before you can continue with the game. So, you don’t have a choose or different routes on how you can advance the plot or choose what to say, because no matter which question in what order you may choose, you still have to pick them all.

Aside from simply listening to the dialogue and deciding which direction to take, there are a variety of mini-games to play through, however, all are done simply by pressing a button or two on the touch screen. Most of these mini-games are timed based, but all have to do with the audio and intent listening. For instance, when you use your soul trap, you must keep the rhythm with your breathing and heartbeats. In later mini-games, you have to listen very closely to succeed, and in most, you have to be wearing headphones. There will be 3 buttons on-screen; forward, and left and right, and you must be able to differentiate where the sound is coming from and then click the corresponding button/direction. These are pretty cool mini-games, and very clever, however, they can be very frustrating. For starters, I tried doing these without the headphones, and it’s impossible, as you can’t tell where the sounds are coming from. Also, if you’re like me, you’ll still find it very, very difficult to differentiate which ear the noise is coming from, which makes these games near impossible and very frustrating. On the current mini-game I’m on, you have to get at least 7 taps correctly in a row, and if you miss one, you have to start all over, and I’ve been stuck on it for quite some time…If I can distinguish which side it’s coming from, the button doesn’t work, and it’s all very frustrating. However, if you can discriminate between the 3 different noise variations, then you’ll be fine and have fun with these little games, which make up the bulk of the actual gameplay to enjoy.

One of the cool mini-games in which you must listen to the bell tower in the background and repeat the jingle. Oops. I kinda just ruined it.

Soul Trapper is split up into 23 continuous chapters, each of which takes from 5-15 minutes to complete, making for a total experience of around 3 hours. The game autosaves at the start of each chapter, and you can choose to either resume your game if you leave, or start from any chapter you’ve previously completed from the chapter select menu. The first 9 chapters aren’t very connected, but after that, it all comes together for the major arc of the story, which has Kane meeting a ghost boy named Oliver, who has quite the story surrounding his death and family, which will lead to your death…and perhaps resurrection?

Overall though, the story is pretty decent, and the voice acting is fantastic, with many unique characters, each with their own personalities and emotions and everything in this area is very good. The voice acting is top notch and the main reason why this game is enjoyable. The story progresses nicely, and you’ll be eager to get to the next chapter to see what happens. The dialogue has an overall dramatic theme, but it is mixed in with lots of sarcastic and humorous comments to keep you engaged and entertained.

Unfortunately though, the acting and story telling is the best part of the game, and if you get Soul Trapper expecting an actual game, you will be disappointed. The interactive events in the game are generally very simple and only require a few taps on the touch screen, although they are kind of cool with respect to the noises and listening, but most of them are all the same. The other interactive portions of the game just require you to decide a direction to travel and then select some text to ask another character. So, if you want a decent story and something to listen to, then you might want Soul Trapper, as it contains a good story, but if you’re in it just for the gaming aspect, you’ll want to pass. This is only Episode 1, so it could be a very interesting series to see where it heads in future episodes, and if the interactive bits improve, then it will definitely be a must have.

Overall Score: 7/10

You can buy Soul Trapper on iTunes.

Posted in collaboration with GamersPlatform.

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