Proto Raider in Review – ASCII To A Whole New Level

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I love a good platform game as much as the next guy, but if the developers aren’t careful everything starts to feel like another Super Mario clone.  Thankfully Proto Raider isn’t even close to causing such confusion.  Basic one button mechanics and single screen arenas keep the levels intimate, while awesome “hi res” ASCII graphics give the game a feel like none other you’ve seen.  If you’re up for a deceptively simple challenge, this is the game for you.

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There’s not really a story to this game, but it won’t matter once you get into it.  You basically need to collect treasure, avoid obstacles and occasionally fight a bad guy or two.  You tap to start each level and then tap to jump when appropriate – or slide if the gravity upgrade is in effect.  Everything else is pretty much handled by the game.  It always seems like it would be too basic to be challenging, yet some of the levels will take you several tries to master.  The game has this “if I try it the same way one more time it will work” effect, when in reality I slight change in logic is needed to solve the level.  That’s what makes this style of game work despite being limited to a single screen per level.

The screens are filled with all kind of obstacles.  Standard jumps can prove fatal when not timed right, and waterfalls provide a nice downward pull that literally keeps you jumping to escape.  Boats keep you protected from falling into the water, assuming you step right so that you land on the boat in the first place.  Poison, flames, drowning – these are but a few of the things will force you to restart a level.  Thankfully you can pick up tools to help you out along the way: scuba gear to traverse deep pools, antidote to protect you from poison, picks to get you through inconvenient rock piles and much more.  You just need to make sure you get to the tools before you plunge head first into the obstacles.

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You can collect up to three treasure chests per level, and while you don’t need to get all of them you will need a certain number to transition between major areas.  Unfortunately you’ll never get to spend that loot.  There is also no score awarded at the end of any level, and while there is Game Center integration there are no leaderboards or achievements.  Basically, this is one of those old school affairs where you’re forced to derive pleasure from the simple fact that you actually beat every level.  And trust me, once you’ve conquered some of these challenges that might just be enough.

If you’re one of those folks that’s fallen prey to the “3D is the only way” mantra then you won’t get the beauty of the graphics in this game.  If you remember the days of text bases MUDs or know what I’m talking about when I say ZZT then you’ll be amazed by how the developers have upped the ante on ASCII imagery.  Sure they’ve taken some liberties that weren’t truly available on character based displays, but in the end it’s pretty spectacular have they’ve managed to capture a vibrant world by combining the output of a standard keyboard in various ways.  The sound effects don’t really live up to the standards of the rest of the aesthetics, but in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.  To back up the wonderful visuals is a soundtrack that would be easy to listen to even if you weren’t playing the game.

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If you’re a platform game junkie like me then you really need to give Proto Raider a try.  The unique visuals and killer soundtrack will keep you senses busy while the single tap mechanics and one screen levels will challenge the brain and reflexes.  Those seeking high scores and massive amount of unlockables probably won’t be satisfied, but anyone else will have a hard time not getting hooked.

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App Summary
Title: Proto Raider Developer: UAB “Puzzle Lab”
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.2 Min OS Req:  iOS 6.0
Price: $2.99 App Size: 44.53MB
  • Simple mechanics
  • Challenging one screen game play
  • Excellent ASCII visuals
  • Great soundtrack
  • No visceral incentives like score or achievements
  • Sound effects are kind of lackluster

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