The Average Gamer

XIII Lost Identity HD (iOS)

You know those puzzle compendiums you can get on the bottom shelf of the newsagents? The ones your gran probably always has or had by the side of her chair when you went to visit? I used to love those. I thought they were brill. Word searches and spot the difference puzzles were my favourite and, even at a young age, I’d developed a grid paced search pattern to beat them. I was unstoppable, the champion in a running order that consisted only of me. Then I hit 14, got a Gameboy and it all went to shit. The newsagents was somewhere I went to buy White Dwarf, the latest AvP comic or a jazz mag. Puzzle books? Who needed them when I had Super God Damn Mario in my pocket? Pfft. They were for old people again.

Yet here I now sit, at the tender age of 34, redeploying my grid based search skills on a £400 piece of electronic wizardry trying to find 15 dollar bills that have inexcplicably drifted around an inanimate, badly drawn hotel room. I want to break things. I really want to break things.

Not only are we completely wasting the genius of the iOS platform – and it is just that, genius – we’re wasting the potential that the base material of XIII offers. Being 34 I’m not only old enough to remember puzzle books, I’m also old enough to remember the wonderfully cel shaded FPS Ubisoft put out many years ago under the same moniker. It took the stylisation of the graphic novels it was based on and used it throughout. Sure, it little lacking in places but there was plenty of innovation there, long before Borderlands came along and stole all the cel shaded FPS glory.

But this – this! – is a lazy boring cash in on a sub-genre that doesn’t even deserve to exist. I don’t even know what it’s called. The “find lots of hidden objects in a static picture” pigeon hole? It’s on the bottom left, next to “interactive videos”.

Which all feels a little reactionary and unpleasant. I’m fairly sure that if you like scouring pictures for artificially darkened objects against near black backdrops you’ll quite like this. It’s pretty much all you do, except for the bits where you touch what is supposed to be dust or condensation to clear up the image, or press static cut-out bad guys to pretend you’re shooting them while they don’t shoot back, or play guess who.

After 2 hours – which is more time than anyone should really be spending with it – that’s about all there is to the game. Forget about reading the story, which is far less interesting thanks to taking it out the medium it belongs in and just plonking it here, as it actually just leads to confusion.

Take for instance the screen where you enter a bank to retrieve the contents of a safety deposit box. The plot gives you the number but, whatever you do, do not try to find it on the screen. First you must find 10 other boxes of different numbers and can only proceed to the plot point when the game allows you to. I know this sounds like fighting against the design of the game for the sake of it, but what point is there in dropping in a plot if you can’t drive it forwards? Yes, the aim is to find stupid objects in hard to see places, but if that’s it why add any narrative arc at all?

It goes from this to rank stupidity with alarming pace. Tidy up the hotel room so that you can think straight! Spot the soldiers so that you can find a way out! Pick out the fishing nets so that you can… ummm… head to the city!

Do me a favour and stay away from this game. It’s £6.99 (!!!!!) worth of not gaming, of doing the digital equivalent of standing in a room facing the door and throwing a pack of cards over your shoulder before challenging yourself to find them all. It has no merit whatsoever, either in production, intuitiveness of design or melding of graphic novels to this new interactive medium.

It’s tepid, uninspiring sub-mediocrity and I want to burn it and the rest of its genre cohorts in the fires of hell itself while laughing manically and disproportionately loudly over their smouldering remains.

If you really must, you could throw your money at your Apple overlords and buy XIII Lost Identity from the App Store.

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