Will and Jaden Smith worked together on the new sci-fi film After Earth, which wasn’t exactly a box-office smash. Will Smith plays Cypher, a war hero, alongside his son, Kitai Raige; they must survive after their ship crash lands on Earth a thousand years after the apocalypse. At least, I think that’s what happens. I didn’t see the movie, and based on the critics’ reception of the film and the box-office stats, odds are you didn’t see it either. Well, that’s just fine, because the game’s got virtually nothing to do with the story.
After Earth for iOS places you in the role of a generic teenage Ranger recruit which comes in two flavors: white, brown-haired male, and white, brown-haired female. One may think these choices are peculiar given that neither of the main protagonists in the movie fit either of those descriptions, but hey, Will Smith’s “angry, sullen Ranger face” is present in the mission description before each level, so I guess that makes up for it, right? Then again, maybe neglecting the movie and its choices was a conscious decision based on box office stats, or maybe the people who made the game didn’t see it either. (I shouldn’t make these jokes; I didn’t see the movie, but maybe it’s actually pretty good?)
Once you’re done reading Cypher’s description you can run one of the 5 missions, each of which are divided into 3 levels. Like most runners, your character continuously moves towards the goal, forcing you to swipe, tap and tilt to maneuver around obstacles. You’ll obtain coins during gameplay that you can use to purchase upgrades, and (of course), if you’re not interested in earning coins via gameplay, you can purchase them with real money. There are also special crystals that can only be obtained by completing daily objectives (or spending real money) as well; these are much harder to come by, but can be used to revive you when you die in a level.
After Earth does bring a couple interesting changes into the mix. To be honest, there’s a lot to like in this particular runner. There’s definitely variety in the game’s environments; not only is the game pretty, but the setting changes also come with new enemy types, changes in obstacles to avoid, and sometimes even vehicles to ride in, like the SJ-2 Skipjack. Levels themselves also change a bit; sometimes you’ll be running in standard fashion towards the goal, while other times the screen will change to a 2D horizontal mode where you’ll just jump and duck (with some exceptions). There are also wingsuit diving levels, but perhaps those are best left to the OTHER part of the review…perhaps we should just start the OTHER part of the review.
For all of its positives, this title can bring some serious frustration as well. The game itself is challenging, in a good way, moreso than you’d expect a movie tie-in to be, but the added frustrations of imprecise controls can make the difficulty a serious headache. Wingsuit gliding levels are particularly bad; these sections are controlled with the iPad’s accelerometer and are very finicky; floating coins will frequently be missed and cliffs will be smacked on a consistent basis while playing this game. You’ll have a health bar to deplete instead of restarting after one collision, and this is a complete necessity considering some levels are exceptionally long and are full of tons of baddies. This may especially happen during the boss battles, scenes where tap and swipe according to on-screen commands. For some reason your generic player doesn’t seem to be too interested in responding in many cases, so expect a decent pummeling on occasion. Unless you happen to have some of those crystals stored up that I mentioned before, expect to be redoing some pretty long, involved levels.
This review’s a bit critical, but I’ve played worse games than After Earth. I’ve played far better ones, too. Maybe the movie encourages the same lukewarm feelings, but I’m guessing some of you out there actually enjoyed the flick. If that’s the case, then maybe the game will appeal to you, too. For $0.99 the game’s a bit heavy on ads and attempts to cash in, but hey…they’re just trying to make up for the movie.
Alright, I’m done with those jokes.