Underground in Review – The SHMUP! You’ve Been Looking For

underground-review1I’ve said quite often in the past that when it comes to games for the iPlatform, my favorites are almost always the “pick up and play” style games. They are usually the easiest to learn and the most addictive. Outside of gaming, one of my longest passions is graffiti art. Up until a little over a month ago, I would have never expected those worlds to collide. Thanks to the powerhouse team of Chillingo and Kinelco and their latest App Store title Underground, I couldn’t be happier.

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Game Description:

Take a journey with a graffiti artist through the underground transport system as you battle through his inner demons on a mission to rectify a previous art crime. Fight your way through a series of street art inspired levels and lift the curse that haunts their every move. Unfold the story as you stop at each beautifully 3d rendered station and get closer to the truth behind the myth. Classic 2d side scrolling shoot em up gameplay takes you between the stations and represents the thoughts and anxieties of our cursed artist as they make their way to their final destination.

First off, for those who are wondering what SHMUP stands for, it’s ‘Shoot Em Up’. Underground is essentially your typical 2D side scrolling shooter, though with a very neat (and well done) graffiti twist. You start the game inside a train car with a graffiti artist making his way through the train system. As you pull into each station, you get a little glimpse into his mind. The real action however is once you leave the station.

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As you make your way down the side of the train, you are treated to some amazing graffiti courtesy of accomplished artist Frames. Don’t admire it too long though, flying into any of the background pieces will destroy your ship. As you are piloting your way around those, you also have to contend with a random assortment of objects and characters bouncing, flying and shooting at you, trying to take you down. Along the way, you’ll encounter everything from little men to dogs  and even rocket chickens (seriously!). All of these amazing pieces of annoying, attacking art are well done and add to the overall graffiti theme of Underground.

underground-review4You have 2 ways to control your ship. The default method makes use of the built in accelerometer and tilting your iDevice will control it’s flight path. The second method, is to tap anywhere on the screen and drag your finger to move the ship around. Both methods work great, though I do prefer using the touch screen method whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

Shooting is done automatically and constantly during the game. What you can control however is the direction of the shots. To control the firing, you simply tap the screen with a second finger and move it around to manipulate the direction of your shots. If you prefer, there is also the option to invert the firing method, meaning you touch the opposite side of where you want to fire (e.g. if you want to shoot up and left, you touch and drag down and to the right).

underground-review5As you kill some of the creatures and art work coming at you, they die with a flash of a graffiti tag and fade out, occasionally leaving specialty items and power up spray caps behind. Collecting these will get you different guns, bonus lives and more. A simple feature that is pretty much a staple in this genre, I was really happy to see that the developers took the time to use a style of spray paint cap that anyone knowledgeable of graffiti art will recognize.

underground-review6As with most side scrollers, you end the level in a battle with a “boss”. It begins with one boss on the first level and progresses to multiple bosses who are faster and more powerful. To give you an idea, it was a massive head in a spaceship creature that was both amusing to look at and annoying as hell to kill as the levels progressed.

Underground was really quite impressive and Chillingo really outdid themselves this time. Taking the graffiti culture and wrapping it around a 2D shooter without making it look tacky or seem like a gimmick to sell more units (I’m looking at you Mark Ecko) is no easy feat. With the stunning visuals and addictive gameplay, this title is a perfect time waster and I would recommend this SHMUP to anyone who is as big a fan of casual games as I am.

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App Summary
Title:Underground (v1.0)Developer:Published by Chillingo. Developed by Kinelco
Price:$3.99App Size:21.1 MB
  • Amazing custom artwork
  • Classic 2D side-scrolling
  • Multi-directional shot controls
  • 11 different weapons
  • In game music a bit too repetitive
  • No online interaction

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