You might remember how we recently covered the Kickstarter campaign that Gabriel Koenig’s started in order to raise the funds needed to complete his debut game. That campaign thankfully ended up becoming a smashing success, as people everywhere – whether or not they backed the project – can now enjoy the freshly released Soul Power (out now, $0.99). Oh – and to get the immediate question tackled right off the bat – the Kickstarter funds acquired were indeed put to good use, for Soul Power has turned out to be a truly stellar experience.
Anyways – even though I hate having to break such terrible news – it seems that you’ve recently died, and there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to remedy this turn of events. However – even worse yet – you’ve now found yourself wandering about the afterlife with no recollections of how you got there, or any other memories regarding your previous life either. Luckily you have still managed to maintain your sanity, whereas it seems that most other amnesia-laden spirits end up trapped between worlds until someone can help them remember what happened. So – with little else to do – you decide to start helping these less fortunate spirits finish their journey over to the other side, hoping to possibly learn something about yourself in the process.
The gameplay contained with Soul Power could best be described as a mixture of Metroid style exploration meets Lunar Lander style gameplay, with a far heavier emphasis on the latter. Through helping ghosts piece their shattered memories back together – as well as discovering secrets left lying about – you will slowly increase your soul power, which determines how long you can fly before needing to rest. Over time – as you increase your aerial prowess – you will be able to delve ever deeper in to the game’s nine interconnected hub worlds, helping out even more troubled ghosts along the way.
The actual control mechanics for Soul Power thankfully keeps things rather simple, with the only inputs to keep track of being a left and right button at the bottom of the screen. Pressing either of the two buttons by themself will produce the obviously expected results, whereas pressing them both together will cause your disembodied spirit to begin levitating upwards. The mechanics of your ethereal flight are very heavily dictated by real physics, such as thrust time and momentum, leading to my previous comparison to Lunar Lander. Furthermore, you aren’t limited to engaging in purely upwards momentum as your spiritual acceleration is also modified by whichever of the two buttons you hold down first.
Finally, you have one more ability that lets you send out a beacon of sorts – a technique known as soul searching – which is initiated by placing a finger on top of your spectral form. Using this you can instantly teleport yourself to any soul gates in the area, which is an absolutely vital skill for exploring the various mostly vertical locales that make up the land of the dead. It can furthermore – via echo location – be utilized to discover forgotten soul energy that is just lying around, as well as secret areas placed somewhere off the beaten path entirely.
The real meat-and-potatoes of this adventure come into play whenever you try to help a ghost piece back together the scattered fragments of his or her memories, which involves travelling inside their very psyche. Each waylaid specter has a number of scattered memories just floating about inside their turmoil stricken mind, and the quicker you manage to collect them the more soul power you will in turn be rewarded. Once a ghost has calmed down – thanks to regaining their marbles – they will become capable of having sane conversations, at which point they will often reflect upon their demise with a profoundly dark sense of humor.
While these memory rescue missions start out easily enough, they will all too quickly evolve into epic challenges of a soul crunching caliber (I pray that you will pardon the pun). You will find yourself forced to deal with things such as directional currents, spike lined walls – which can’t technically kill you, seeing as how you’re already dead – and so much more. It will definitely take multiple attempts just to finish many of Soul Power’s later stages even once, let alone perform well enough to receive anything better than a lowly 1-Star ranking. That said, all of the challenges contained within Soul Power are still perfectly fair – despite the difficulty – and obtaining a 3-Star ranking on any mission will lead to a profound sense of self satisfaction.
Accompanying this journey through the afterlife is a positively stellar soundtrack, composed by Gabriel Koenig himself, which successfully provides brilliantly moody ambiance to every facet of the adventure. Furthermore, the simplistic – and predominantly monochromatic – art style successfully lends a nice atmosphere of oppressiveness to the vast areas making up the afterlife’s various regions. One of my favorite parts of the art style has to be the extreme camera angles used whenever you’re ascending or descending, giving everything the impression of stretching on endlessly for miles. Fortunately – despite all of this – Soul Power never permits itself to becomes too depressing, with a large portion of the thanks going directly to the title’s heavily dark sense of humor.
If you like the idea of challenging propulsion based gameplay coupled with large environments to explore, and can furthermore stomach a heavy dose of dark humor, then Soul Power is probably the adventure that you’ve been dying to play.
iFanzine Verdict:Soul Power’s Metroid-esque journey through the afterlife – coupled with Lunar Lander style physics – makes for a rewardingly difficult adventure, filled to the brim with excellent music. Anyone who likes a good challenge, and furthermore won’t be put off by the dark sense of humor that Soul Power displays towards death, will probably be in heaven with this game. With a debut mobile effort this impeccably strong, we’re practically dying from our anticipation to see what kind of stellar iDevice experience that Gabriel Koenig plans to deliver next.