After the success of Infinity Blade, you’d have thought there would be more games that followed its lead when it comes to touchscreen innovation.
Instead, developers seem determined to shoe-horn console gameplay into touchscreen devices, whether by stripping away excess fat (as with Madfinger’s slick Shadowgun) or by ramming in more stuff and hoping it’ll somehow work better this time around (Gameloft’s feature-packed Modern Combat 3).
Epoch, on the other hand, craftily side-steps the common complaints with third-person games by re-imagining the genre completely for the touchscreen. While it does have a few kinks, the resulting game ends up feeling a whole lot more satisfying to play as a result.
Unit 3000-21 is warming
You, as a robot tasked with rescuing a princess, must hide behind cover, popping out to slam fizzy laser fire into the faces of hundreds of robots attempting to stop you.
Each level is broken up into a series of screens, with an attractively presented cutaway of your robot bounding around, or a new foe sounding off, to break up the action.
As in Infinity Blade, with which Epoch has a game engine in common, you can fast-forward through these cut-scenes to jump into the action.
Firing is handled automatically by tapping on your target and letting your droid deal with aiming, while swiping the screen left or right sends him bounding to the next piece of cover.
Swiping up at the corners throws him into an elaborate leap to the opposite side of the screen - vital for avoiding certain types of enemy fire.
Taking cover is as easy as swiping downwards, while you can either leave reloading up to the droid or swipe down while in cover to manually take charge of clip-management while the attractive laser/plasma fire pounds against the ruins of humanity.
The graphics and animations may be slick, but it’s these touchscreen-focused controls that really make Epoch fun to play.
Whether you’re engaging in a one-on-one against a huge spider monster or trying to battle four foes with grenade launchers at once, you always feel in control of what your robot is doing.
But while the main game is great fun, there are kinks in the surrounding areas that end up hurting the overall experience.
Epoch tries to target the same pleasure centres as Infinity Blade with a whole truckload of various weapons and upgrades, but the guns don’t look or feel different enough to make you care, while the way it hands out random weapons and armour anyway means it’s a risk buying an upgrade in case it just hands you the same gun at the end of the next level.
Similarly, the game relies on you wanting to replay levels on harder difficulties for longevity, the main missions coming to an abrupt and disappointing end after just an hour’s play.
The fact that you have to unlock difficulties sounds good on paper, but it makes the first playthrough far too easy for seasoned gamers.
It’s a testament to the game’s excellent firefights that, even without the dopamine-doused stat-chasing of Infinity Blade, Epoch will have you going back to it long after the credits roll.