With the recent glut of iPhone games vying for our attention in the app store, the idea of another iPhone puzzle game seems less than necessary. Between the myriad of physics games, match three clones, and word games, it’s easy to be cynical toward the prospect of playing yet another game that asks us to solve problems and dream up solutions.
Fortunately, developer Ratloop has created a game that truly looks and feels like nothing else on the app store. Stripped down to its’ basic elements, Helsing’s Fire is a trial and error, resource management game. The basic mechanics, though – shine your light on colored monsters and destroy them with a similar colored potion – come across as unique and well thought-out.
The conceit of playing as a vampire hunting duo comprised of Dr. Helsing (who controls a potion deploying flame) and Raffton (deployer of potions, which destroy any like-colored monster that’s positioned in the light) gives the game an undeniable charm. The plot is certainly bare bones, but it provides the game with the perfect sense of mission and character. We are treated to a story of friendship, loyalty, and vampire-hunting… but mostly vampire-hunting.
It’s going to be hard to get Helsing and Raffton’s story out of your head. It’s nothing spectacular, but the whole game is built around selling their friendship and cooperation. Call it a single-player co-op game: Helsing’s Fire presents us with a team we can both root for and guide to victory. From the sparse but perfectly paced dialogue to the varied fist-bumps they give one another after solving each puzzle, Helsing’s Fire rewards you for your success with a simple warm feeling, and you’ll find yourself returning again and again because of it.
Of course, that warm feeling isn’t the only draw to keep playing. The game launches straight into the last puzzle from the home screen with little to no load time, and I found myself using my spare seconds to try and take out a few rats or skeletons. The game supports Crystal leaderboards, achievements, and a challenge system seamlessly, all of which are particularly nice bonuses in conjunction with the survival mode, which provides an endless amount of score-based gameplay after the fact.
The game only falters when it forgets its strengths and muddles the gameplay for the sake of variety. As you progress further into the game, the monsters begin to unveil special powers that seem arbitrary and out of place. The late-level monster’s power of darkness acts as a kind of inversion of your own light-related power and seems to flow more naturally from the game’s basic mechanic. Unfortunately, this clever idea is overshadowed by the need to constantly dodge the random projectiles sent your way by lesser monsters.
In spite of this, Helsing’s Fire retains its appeal throughout the entire campaign with some of the most unique gameplay and ingenious presentation I’ve seen in an iPhone game. A basic puzzle game can be nice, but after a while playing level after level with no other motivation than reaching that next high score can make us feel a little bit like a zombie. Helsing’s Fire stands apart as the vampire-hunting puzzle game with a beating heart.
Review copy provided by publisher.