Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.
Darkside (Free, Universal) is a space-based arcade shooter that adds a welcome twist to the time-honored classic Asteroids. While playing Darkside, you are now responsible for defending remote mining colonies placed on mineral rich asteroids throughout the galaxy.
In Darkside, you command a ship that could best be described as a ground-based hovercraft that rotates quickly across the surface of the asteroid. Your ship stays centered on the screen throughout the game as you use the d-pad located on the left side of the screen to move around the asteroid. The d-pad on the right side of the screen spins your ship and fires your weapon system. This dual control style allows you to revolve your ship around the asteroid in one direction, while spinning and firing your weapons in a different direction. You are often fleeing from destructive objects that are heading toward you, while at the same time trying to blast them out of space.
The 3D graphics of Darkside have been optimized for Retina displays and are quite stunning. You hardly notice that your fighter is centered on the screen as there is quite a bit going on at any one time. As the main asteroid that you are defending rotates under you, objects orbiting the asteroid are moving in different directions overhead. There are also alien spacecraft that are shooting at you while they try to destroy the mining colonies. There are also objects on the surface like craters, mountains and the buildings of each mining colony that you need to avoid. And to give you perspective on what lies just over the horizon, there is a heads-up display that acts as a radar.
There are three different modes you can play. The Arcade mode comes with the free app while the Missions and Survival modes are unlocked via a single in-app purchase. Survival is just as it sounds. You start off with only one life and you see how long you can last without getting killed. Missions can of course get a little more complicated. There are 100 different Mission levels that have very specific objectives assigned to them: like keep at least one mining colony operational, or clear the surface of the asteroid from attack within a specific time limit. Defending specific assets located on the asteroid gives the game more of a real-time tower defense sort of feel, whereas time-based objectives feel more like survival mode in reverse. The timer is counting down toward your destruction, not up. Also included with the in-app purchase is a smart bomb feature that can be used to clear your side of the asteroid when things get a little too overwhelming.
While there is no multi-player capability in Darkside, the game does support up to three player profiles. This does not switch GameCenter accounts when it comes to achievements and ranking on leaderboards. But it does provide an opportunity to keep score in a sort of back-and-forth duel as you take turns with a friend. What really draws you in is the speed of the 3D environment, the detail of the in-game elements, and the nostalgic familiarity of the gameplay. This may well be one of the games you keep on your device longer than just a weekend or two.