Generally speaking, there are two types of horror games.
Firstly, there are the creepy, suspenseful, and drawn-out horror games that mess with your head, like Silent Hill or Amnesia.
Then there are the games that are just as suspenseful, but which rely almost completely on ‘BOO!’ tactics designed to make you jump.
Dead Space falls into the latter category, meaning whilst it isn’t as subtle or clever as games in the other sub-genres of horror, it’s still a very worthy action game. It's also, perhaps, the most faithful console adaption to grace the Xperia Play so far in the device's relatively short life.
In Dead Space, you play as Vandal, an engineer working on the Sprawl in roughly the same capacity as Isaac from the original console titles. You’ve even wearing the same steampunk-esque space suit, complete with health bar spinal cord.
As a new convert to the Church of Unitology, you take part in a sabotage mission against the government. During the sabotage operation, though, Vandal inadvertently liberates hordes of Necromorphs (zombie-like monsters with spiked limbs). Cue quarantine lock-downs, explosions, and blood. Lots of blood.
The game is presented identically to its console counterpart: an over-the-shoulder viewpoint with long, blue laser pointers for aiming. In tighter corridors and when backed against walls, this view can get a little restrictive, but apart from that it feels perfectly solid.
I saw something
The same could be said for the controls. Often, the touchpads on the Play are ignored by developers, since they are so difficult to implement. On this occasion, however, EA has nailed their implementation on Sony Ericsson's handset. While the touchpads control movement and sight, holding the L trigger aims your gun and the R trigger fires.
And with Square to reload and D-pad left / right to select weapon, Dead Space for Xperia Play ends up almost perfectly replicating the console version's control template, and therefore fixing a lot of the problems we faced in the iPhone's touchscreen edition.
You still have to swipe or tap the screen from time to time, but only when it's deemed necessary and appropriate to the action. For example, when a Necromorph grabs Vandal, you have to swipe the screen to slice it with your Plasma Saw - a handy melee weapon you can use anytime.
You can upgrade your weapons and suit by collecting or buying Power Nodes throughout the 12-mission story, something which becomes a necessity as you encounter more difficult enemies later in the game.
In space, no one can hear sound effect cock-ups
Not only does Dead Space play like a console game, but it also looks and sounds the part. Well, almost. Visually, it’s beyond impressive. Steam, light, and shadow intermingle to recreate the franchise’s trademark space environments.
Audibly, there are some hiccups and glitches. At one point during review, for instance, all of the sound effects bar one cut out on us for a couple of minutes. This is a real pity, since the series prides itself on great sound (it even encourages you to play on headphones). Luckily, these bugs didn't spoil our playtime too frequently.
Up until now, we could have forgiven the scepticism surrounding so-called hardcore titles on smartphones. Fears that the controls just aren’t feasible are usually to blame. But it seems Dead Space on Xperia Play might actually allay those concerns, albeit replacing them with an altogether more jumpy kind of fear.