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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Any CPU @ 1300 MHz    RAM: 384 MB    Hard Disk: 400 MB

August 20, 2008 | Andrew Wasilow

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Most modern games try and break new ground with their releases: either with stunning visual effects, captivating game play, or even a different genre of game. Each major game that comes out is heralded as a triumph of modern technology, giving the average gamer graphics that were unheard of a few years ago, all the while making the games new and fresh in order to keep gamers interested. But who ever said there was anything wrong with the older game styles? Old games are being re-worked and re-released to work on new systems with little or no updates to the graphics and music, and people still buy them. Wasn't there just a sequel made to the Dark Castle series in the original style?

So what happens when you take an “old” game play method like the side scrolling third person point of view shooter, and combine it with modern rendering methods, add a third dimension of movement, and a semi-interactive environment? You get io.

If you were to look up the game developer, Atman Software, you would learn that io was developed over the course of five years by one man. Only one. That's it. So after saying that you would probably expect me to say something along the lines of “if you take that into account, the graphics aren't bad”. But no, I'm going to say something else. Without taking into account the fact that io was completely designed by one man, including the graphics engine, characters, worlds, and effects, io's graphics are great. I've seen several games in recent memory whose graphics are not as well done. The engine takes virtually everything within the world and maps it for lighting, shadows, light reflectivity, and even for any light an object may be producing itself. The shadow of the player is an actual shadow, not a blob on the floor following a character. It is also well fitting depending on the light the type of light source and the distance from it; if you are moving away from a light source, the shadow becomes elongated and a lighter, where as standing right next to a light source makes a nice crisp shadow with the appropriate angle to the character and the light. Shadows also play an important part in the game itself, but we'll get into that later.

Your available arsenal can cause plenty of damage depending on your weapon of choice, and the destruction of your enemy always creates a satisfying explosion, disappearing in a cloud of smoke and bouncing parts. The smoke is nicely done, if only slightly cartoonish, and the bouncing parts are along the same line.

All of the objects and props in the game are also well done. The crates are moveable with your displacer gun. Moving the crates is simple and straightforward, and stacking them is equally simple, and necessary to reach certain objects in the game. You can use the crates to block the advancements of large enemies and your character can even crouch down behind them for shelter, your character's shadow will change when the crate gets in the way of the light. When you fire a weapon, the light flashes and reflects off of the walls, smoke trails follow rockets down hallways, strike their targets and flash nicely.

The things that really caught my eye were the little details that create a realistic environment. For example, on the first level within the first few minutes of play, you come across a shimmering heat wave coming off of the steam leaking overhead pipes. Walking behind this disturbance causes the rendering of the character to shimmer and quake along with the heat or gas or flame. That impressed me greatly, especially for such a small game and development team.

The developer had mentioned he would have liked to have added better explosions, animations, and more detailed levels. However I was quite challenged by the levels as they were, the animations are more than respectable for the game, though the explosions I agree, could be worked on a bit more. As you are playing the game, trying to find the strategy that will keep you alive, destroying your enemy before they destroy you, the graphics feel more than adequate. In fact at the games highest resolution, my dual 2GHz G5 and Radeon X800XT had no problems making the game look a pixel away from stunning. The only thing that could've made the game look better would be the inclusion of anti-aliasing to soften the lines of crates and scenery. Since you only have a handful of long distance views in the whole game everything in the game is a close up shot and anti-aliasing would have helped. By not including that as an option, the system requirements are kept quite low, but just high enough to be out of reach of my iBook G4 800MHz.


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