App of the Day: Project 83113

Bellissimo.

If Treasure ever make an iOS game, it's likely to resemble Project 83113. The intense action is reminiscent of a fast-paced Gunstar Heroes or Silhouette Mirage (minus the sugary acid trip), while the amount of on-screen chaos reminds me of Bangai-O.

Project 83113 (leetspeak for "Belle", and which I will hereafter refer to as P8) trades in Treasure's insane art direction for a relatively straightforward-looking sci-fi setting. P8 keeps you on your toes, something that's all the more impressive considering its all-touch control scheme.

Belle is the game's strange four-armed protagonist, who looks like a cross between a marsupial and some kind of rodent. She has been specially made to destroy machines that have taken over the world; what that means in practical terms is she's quick, versatile and easy to control.

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Chaotic.

The all-swiping controls work remarkably well considering the pace of the action. You can swipe left or right to auto-run Belle in that direction, while swiping again makes her perform a quick dash that can be combined with jumps and air dashes to up her speed and distance even further. P8's design is often balanced by intuition: Belle auto-targets foes, for instance, so you can keep your focus on acrobatically avoiding enemy fire and navigating level paths.

The strategy in combat comes from your homing attack, which fires a special bullet that either obliterates anything in its attack range, or causes a chain reaction of unit explosions. Using this special takes away some of your health bar, which in turn is replenished by the number of your kills.

It's an essential manoeuvre when speed-dashing a gauntlet of heavy fire (this is a game where you die a lot, something screenshots can't do justice). Learning when and how much to use this move takes some practice (and again, lots of deaths). The moments of punctuated intensity in a level may only take a few seconds to clear, but you can fail just as quickly.

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You can upgrade your guns for even more firepower.

This is to say nothing of attempting high scores. Once you get the hang of the pacing you can madly swipe through any level in just a minute or two, but if you actually want to earn bragging rights, no death speed runs with high combo counters are a requirement.

Considering how often I died while playing, I can imagine perfect runs would be quite a bit harder. If only there were more to do. Every so often you find new weapon blueprints with the help of a robot buddy, and you can power up your weapons and look for items that give you snippets of narrative information. Anything else is just you versus the pursuit of perfection.

P8 only becomes elegant after you master its controls. It also shares Treasure's taste for brevity, though with action this wonderfully, thoughtfully pure, it's hard to argue with the end result.

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