I’ve been thinking about sequels a lot lately. They’ve been hard to ignore, with the past month or so bringing a surprising amount of games with a “2” in the title to the App Store (in fact, five of the last seven games I’ve reviewed have been sequels, come to think of it). What fascinates me is that on consoles, a sequel usually means an evolution of a game’s formula, bringing not just new features but generally expanding on what made the original fun. Consider the jump from Goldeneye 007 to pseudo-sequel Perfect Dark, for a dramatic example. On iOS, however, games tend to start out simple and then see lots of new features and expansion happen to the original app, sometimes over multiple years, before finally getting the sequel treatment.
One Man Left’s original Tilt to Live — an iOS classic if ever there was one — began this way, as a simple dot avoidance game with a single mode and heaps of weird charm. Over the past three and a half years it’s seen no less than 20 updates, greatly expanding the game to include four new modes, updated visuals, more weapons, and even online multiplayer. It feels a bit unfair, then, to compare version 1.8.4 of the original Tilt to Live against 1.0 of Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous (out now, $2.99). It hasn’t had anywhere near the same amount of time to blossom and evolve, and as a result it feels pretty bare-bones next to it’s predecessor.
In case you missed the original (and there’d better be a good reason), you play as an arrow eternally trapped in a small green arena filled with red dots. Your goal is to avoid these dots, occasionally killing them with the various weapon power-ups scattered about. It’s a simple formula, but what made the gameplay stand out in 2010 was the excellent accelerometer controls. You tilt, see, in order to live.
So, what’s new this time? Well, the game looks better. There are neat lighting tricks when you detonate a nuke, for example, and the physics of the dots has been overhauled to act more like liquid and less like an unruly crowd. Beyond that, the majority of the weapons have been replaced with fancy new ones, and there’s a little mini-game when you die to try for an extra life or higher score. These things are all somewhat trivial additions, but One Man Left did add one new killer feature: boss fights.
Yes, the game about running scared from dots now sees you taking on giant, spike adorned, laser firing contraptions bent on your destruction. Unfortunately, the weapon power-ups don’t work on bosses, so in order to fight back you must fly through little targets on their giant metal bodies. It works to break up the standard gameplay nicely, and usually doesn’t feel too difficult. That is, until you dip into the Code Red mode, where things feel a little less balanced.
In Code Red (the only other mode besides “Classic”) things get a lot more hectic a lot quicker, much like the same mode in the original game. However, the difficulty of the bosses seems to scale up a lot more than the regular gameplay does, leading to situations where the randomly appearing bosses mean pretty much certain death for your little arrow. It feels unfair when you’re in the zone with a nice challenge, and suddenly: “BOSS ALERT!” Instant death.
Thankfully, everything else in the game feels as great as Tilt to Live always has. Despite this, though, I can’t stop thinking it almost feels like one of those HD remakes that are all the rage now rather than a proper sequel. Aside from boss fights (which are hit and miss depending on the mode), there’s nothing that stands out as truly, refreshingly new. Sure, things look a lot better and the new weapons are great fun, but these changes don’t seem that different from the small expansions the original game got over the years. Even so, it’s still worth chucking the developers another three bucks for more tilt-based goodness, especially if the original is any indication of how significantly this game will expand and improve with further updates down the line.
iFanzine Verdict: If you were to compare the first version of Tilt to Live with this first version of Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous, you’d be thrilled at how much the game had changed. However, that’s not how things work in the App Store, and the original has seen over a dozen rather sizable updates while the followup is still in its infancy. This means the jump from one to the other ends up feeling a little like a step backwards in some areas, with the 5 modes of the original dropping down to 2 in the sequel, and no online multiplayer this time around. However, the new weapons are very fun (like one that freezes the screen and lets you target dots with a sweeping crosshair), clever (there’s a “laser mace” that needs to be swung around in circles), and often hilarious (a badly stitched together dot disguise that let’s you float around unnoticed). Plus, the music is every bit as phenomenal as the first game. If you were a fan of the original like I was, this is a fairly easy game to recommend. I’m hopeful that it will achieve true redonkulous-ness with subsequent updates; for now, though, it’s simply very good.