Poor Project ’88 (out now, $2.99). Out of the entire year, it had to come out right after the recent hit Boson X. Because of that unfortunate fact, it’s almost impossible to review without at least a passing mention of its very similar and slightly older colleague. Both games see you twisting and turn down a psychedelic tunnel by tapping left, right, or the two at the same time. Both are twitchy as hell. And, of course, both are clearly inspired at least in part by the legendary Super Hexagon. So, then: How does Project ’88 stack up?
Well, compared to Boson X, not so well. It’s unfortunate, too, as it seems both games had roughly the same idea at the same time: Take a simple tunnel flyer like Boost 2 and marry it with Hexagon‘s sheer insanity. It’s a match made it Masochist Heaven (or Hell?) and it would almost be fair to imagine Project ’88 reaping the rewards if it had come out first.
The problem with that hypothetical scenario, however, is that in many ways Project ’88 feels like just that: a project. It’s simple almost to a fault, with three main levels (and one unlockable bonus level) that feel largely indistinguishable from each other. They are called “2012”, “2000”, and “1988”, suggesting that the game had some interesting time travel-y ideas at one point which were maybe never fleshed out fully. Why are we going back in time? What’s the eponymous project? I don’t need a novel, but the game and its stages’ names just feel like a tease.
As for the gameplay itself, everything works mostly as it should. The controls are great, and the core concept, simple as it may be, is solid. Plus, it seems a touch easier than the aforementioned Boson X, which was our main sticking point with that game. The best part of ’88, however, is the gravity flipping mechanic. When the track drops out ahead of you, you can tap both sides of the screen to flip your little ship up to the ceiling. Each time it happened, I could almost physically feel my brain bending inside my head as it quickly adjusted to the new paradigm. Up is down, left is right (relative to the ship, anyway), and things get significantly more challenging until you acclimate. In those moments, which are frustratingly rare, the game shines.
Project ’88 is actually a surprisingly hard game to review. What it sets out to do, it does basically perfectly. The controls are great, the visuals are nice, the music is fine. Is that enough, though? In an overcrowded marketplace with games that will give you a very similar experience but deeper and with better visuals, sound, and maybe even a touch of personality, it may not be. Still, for enthusiasts of this particular genre looking for something very simple and streamlined, this is a decent recommend even at $2.99.
iFanzine Verdict: Project ’88 is yet another in a growing line of games loosely inspired by the ridiculous Super Hexagon. While the game meets its goals competently, I can’t help but wish they’d have set their sights a bit higher. As it is now, the game finds itself wading in mediocrity with occasional flashes of something that could have been pretty great.