|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: Any CPU @ 1300 MHz RAM: 384 MB Hard Disk: 400 MB|
SoundThe only music in the game is played during the main menu, and that music sets the mood for the game very well, dark and spooky space music preparing you for the game itself. The track is a bit short and repeats itself if you stay in the menu for any length of time, to memorize your controls for example. The sounds within the game are sparse but well done and well placed according to the situation. The steps of your character make footsteps sounds, those of human shaped opponents make human footstep sounds and larger robots make the sounds of servos moving. Each individual weapon you carry has its own distinct sound as well; the machine gun makes a staccato report generally associated with the weapon, the rocket launcher makes a nice firing sound and explosion. All sounds are relative, and all create a great modern ambiance to an old school game with a twist.
GameplayAs mentioned earlier, this is a side scrolling action game with modern 3D character and environment rendering, and it looks very pretty because of that. But take a look at the keyboard controls and you'll notice that you have four direction keys. Wait a minute, why are there four directions in a two dimensional game? Here's the twist. You not only have the left and right motions but the you also have the ability to go in and out of the screen, in a simulated 3D respect. This introduces a very creative twist that makes io a game worth playing to the very end. Being able to enter deeper into the world provides a different experience to any other side scrolling game. Having this ability enables other aspects of gameplay to be presented, such as crates that you can move around, and not just jump over, stairs that lead you up to a higher level only in the back portion of the screen, and my favorite, objects hidden behind walls, glass, and various other objects in the world. This presents a problem. Enemies can be anywhere on that plane and you must target them, which means your gun can target in three dimensions. This part of the engine was well done. When your crosshairs moves over and object it jumps to the object or enemy furthest to the edge of the screen, making targeting in this environment simpler than it probably could have been. You also have a flashlight on your weapon, which you can aim at anything in the game, into the screen, out of the screen, even at you, the player. The aiming of the flashlight, however, is an issue.
To look around, you click your right mouse button and move the crosshairs. What if you're on a laptop, which all new Macbooks and Macbook Pros will be able to play regardless of the graphics chipsets aside, and you have no right mouse button or you have the original one button mouse from the days of yore? That's a problem. I tried using control-click to no avail. The other game play issue is not so big of a deal. Your character has three movement modes: walking, running and a crouching crawl. To switch between these modes, the instructions tell you to use your scroll wheel to select the mode you want. Same problem as before if you're on a laptop or you have an older one button mouse. However this one gives you the option of using the shift key to cycle through modes, so it is not necessary to have a scroll wheel.
Mention was made earlier about shadows. They play a vital role in playing the game and surviving the constant onslaught of enemies while you guard your one and only life with every means possible. With the choice of five offensive weapons, you are well armed to attack anything that can come at you, yet io requires more than brute force to survive. There are times when guile is more of an appropriate tactical decision than charging into a room guns blazing. This is where the shadows come into play. At the bottom of your screen there is an indicator that lets you know your characters current visibility level, based on your movement and ambient light. If the bar is red, more than likely you will be seen by any enemy that happens by. If the bar is very small and green, an enemy will walk right past you, at which point you jump out and nail him with a rocket. That small little detail gives you a thrill as you watch the large robot walk right past you.
The enemy AI is also very active. They move when you try to shoot, run away when you hurt them, even crouch behind crates to protect themselves (which I was told was not a programmed response). The smaller enemies can jump over crates that you moved in front of them or run around them if you stack a couple crates.