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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 during this weekend.
Dead Space ($6.99 iPhone, $9.99 iPad) is a narrated adventure game that tells a horrifying tale of aliens that have taken over space-based mining colony. It is the sort of game that will take nerves of steel to survive and fight your way to an alien-free life.
Navigating through the game using touch based controls, the left side of the screen has a hidden virtual d-pad that will move you forward and backward as well as strafe left and right. The controls on the right side of the screen will pivot your character and allow you to look up, down and all around the room. You have the freedom to go just about anywhere you please. Movement is only restricted by the walls of the rooms and corridors as well as a series of locked doors. Finding your way through the adventure is easy enough, as you can keep referring to a navigational guide that lights up a blue line through the space station that will show you the way to your next mission.
Being a mining colony set in a futuristic space station, you have access to some gruesome weapons that were originally designed to be used as mining tools. After navigating your way through a few basic tasks designed to get you familiar with the mechanics of the game, aliens literally start jumping out of the walls trying to kill you. You really do not know when an alien will come to attack you.
Sometimes you will see a dead corpse fall in font of you, while other times you will see an alien run across the corridor ahead in the distance. You soon realize that the entire colony has been infested by an alien race of giant creatures whose primary weapon is surprise. Sneaking up behind you, jumping out in front of you, you never really know where the next alien is coming from.
While the motion controls are still accessible during a fight, you will find yourself swiping and tapping the screen as you strike back against the aliens with your plasma cutters and other odds and ends you pick up along the way. Each weapon in the game has two distinct firing modes. When you do run out of ammunition, there is a sort of hand to hand mode where you swipe up or swipe down to attack, depending on where the alien is situated. You can even stomp on an alien when things are rough. There is a life force indicator on your back that indicates how much health you have remaining after each fight. If you stay put for a moment, you will slowly regenerate, but if you stay still for too long and you will be attacked.
Going off the beaten path and exploring the various rooms of the space station becomes a crucial part of the game as you will need to assemble power packs, credits, and collect materials that you will need to complete the mission. It also provides an opportunity for a random encounter with an alien. Spend too much tome wandering around and you will be reminded of your mission and told to hurry up and keep moving.
The best way to fully experience Dead Space is with a good set of over-the-ear headphones: something that will block out any distractions from the world around you and allow you to focus solely on the game. The soundtrack of the game adds to the overall suspense of what is going on. There are calm moments when you are taking instructions as to where to go next, activating a console, or just exploring a seemingly empty room. You will hear rattling, banging and all sorts of disturbing noises as you walk around. Then without warning the volume increases, the lights dim, the room you are standing in is automatically locked down in quarantine, and you are forced to fight your way out by clearing the room of any and all aliens before the doors will open again. Running to safety is not an option.
While this game is technically a sequel to the successful Electronic Arts console game, with a plot the bridges between the two console games, the story line is well separated and the game can stand on its own. With Halloween just around the corner, exploring a virtual space station haunted by flesh-eating aliens that jump out at you every chance they get, Dead Space will definitely serve as a good stand in for a real world haunted house this weekend.