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iPhone/iPad review of the day: Etolis: Arena - twin-stick shooter looks like Halo, plays like Smash TV

On iPhone
Game:
Etolis: Arena
Price: $1.99 / £1.79
Size: 108 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store: US / UK

On iPad
Game:
Etolis: Arena
Price: $1.99 / £1.79
Size: 108 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store: US / UK

Twin-stick shooters often make for miserable iOS games. Even on the iPad, where we’ve got enough real-estate to tolerate a few faux-analog sticks and buttons, the on-screen overlay controls scheme is far from preferable. But in a few cases, we deal with drawn-on controls because the games are so damn good – Street Fighter IV and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 come to mind. And now, Etolis: Arena becomes one of the first twin-stick shooters to join that list.

Far from a high-concept, thought-provoking shooter, Etolis is instead the sort of top-down action game we’d have expected to play in an arcade. It’s a play-‘til-you-lose sort of shooter, where killing wave after wave of increasingly aggressive enemies earns cash. Cash, in turn, unlocks bigger and badder guns, more grenades, and even tougher challenge modes. (The most expensive strips guns away altogether, leaving you with just a big ol’ bat to fight off five waves of wannabe warriors.)

It’s a simple system with decent progression, and while it’s never complicated, Etolis: Arena has more to it than we expected. Abilities, too, unlock in exchange for currency. You’ll start with invisibility and work your way toward ludicrously expensive ammo/upgrade/invincibility upgrades. We rarely knew where to spend our points because Etolis has so many things to buy. Maps also open up as you buy ‘em.

Even on its easier difficulty setting, Etolis is a challenging arena shooter. Enemies congest the narrow hallways or surround you in open areas, so you’ll want to lure or flee based on what weapon(s) you’re rocking. It isn’t long before immensely powerful foes swarm you, either, so you won’t always want to destroy the crates scattered about the world – they’ve got goodies inside, but they also serve as cover points if you’re in too deep.

At first, we thought Etolis looked a bit lame, had a straightforward sci-fi setting and would be painful to play. But after digging into it, opening it up and learning to play it more effectively, we’re all about it. We’ll deal with the minor inconvenience of overlay analog sticks for something this immediately fun.

Mar 22, 2011

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