On paper, The Innocent Devils’ The Lawless (out now, FREE) seems like the perfect iPad game. It looks great, uses the touchscreen in a simple and accessible way, features bite-sized levels, and has the lowest possible barrier of entry, price-wise. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t run on paper. It runs on an iPad (or iPhone), and it’s a less than ideal experience overall.
Let’s start with the good. The game is very cinematic and certainly looks impressive. Great lighting and textures are everywhere, and it really draws you into the Wild West like a gritty genre film. The voice acting isn’t half bad, either, though it doesn’t take long before hearing the same lines over and over starts to grate as you repeat sections.
And repeat you will, because the first of the game’s many disappointments lies in the frustrating controls. It’s essentially an on-rails shooter, where you just poke the targets as quickly as possibly to fire, but the brief window you are allowed to tap in can be hard to judge and quite finicky at times. It tries its best to help you out by slowing down time and highlighting targets, but frequently the first-person camera continues to jerk around making it feel nearly impossible to get headshots in the short time it gives you, which are basically required for high scores. Even worse, I often found my taps not registering at all, which quadrupled my frustration.
Luckily, these sections are very short — usually only a few seconds long — and you can repeat each one as often as you like in order to pass a level. Unluckily, each level is made up of only three or four of these segments, meaning you can probably beat the game’s free content in about two minutes if you can jive with the flaky controls.
Extending the game is the inclusion of three more levels which can be purchased all together for $1.99. (This is one of the fairest ways of doing IAP in my opinion — essentially giving you a free taste and then charging for the full experience.) However, all of the other levels are equally as short as the free levels so you’re basically getting five more minutes for two bucks. You can also purchase a “hardcore” mode for another couple of dollars, but the game is frustrating enough as it is and paying to make things even more difficult sounds extremely unpleasant.
True masochists can compete on the leaderboards after the ten minute campaign is over, but the game doesn’t use Game Center or even Facebook; no, you have to sign up for their own service which requires an email address (and already has the “please send me news and updates” box checked. Helpful!). If you still haven’t had enough, you can sign up for another service and bet real money on who can score best, which feels kinda gross being in an arcade game.
In all honesty, though, I wanted to like The Lawless. There aren’t many Western-themed games on iOS, it looks great, and the one free level and tutorial genuinely hooked me. Unfortunately, the small problems that annoyed me in the initial offering were only magnified during the rest. That coupled with the fact that the game is over before you can blink make this a hard game to recommend.
iFanzine Verdict: In spite of my extremely mixed feelings toward The Lawless, I still want The Innocent Devils’ game to succeed. It does a wonderful job bringing you into its sepia stained world and making you feel like you’re really taking part in the relative anarchy of the late 1800’s. I hope a sequel — or some hefty updates — can fix the control issues, add more leaderboard options, nix the gambling, and substantially lengthen the campaign to help it realize it’s full potential.