Terra iPhone game has merit, despite messy RPG action

Jan 21, 2011
Games

My first time playing Terra, I actually thought something was critically wrong with the app. I had selected that I wanted to start a new game, and I was at a screen attempting to pick which two of three characters I was going to command. An out-of-place dialogue box opened up in the middle of […]

My first time playing Terra, I actually thought something was critically wrong with the app. I had selected that I wanted to start a new game, and I was at a screen attempting to pick which two of three characters I was going to command. An out-of-place dialogue box opened up in the middle of the screen telling me to select a character, but nothing else seemed to trigger my actual selection.

It wasn’t long before I realized I had been so distracted by the eight-bit relic of a dialogue box that popped up (with actual prompts inside of it like “OK!”) that I completely missed that there was an on-screen gamepad that allowed me to move a selection arrow over. It would’ve been more embarrassing if I didn’t believe it was so genuinely confusing. And that pretty much describes the experience of playing Terra, a not outstanding, but not terrible, action RPG that feels like a hodgepodge of good ideas and sloppy execution.

The interface as noted above, is a low point. It looks like some developers created a very decent-looking throwback RPG with a smart control system, and then realized they hadn’t put any menus in, so they threw in a menu system directly from an old NES game. It looks and feels completely incongruous to the rest of the app.

The gameplay itself feels like an early Legend of Zelda game with greater emphasis on RPG-style upgrades and hit points. Slashing your way through the title is, if nothing else, a pretty good way to pass the time. Thanks to frequent auto-saves, it’s not inconceivable that Terra could be a rather deep pick-up-and-play game, too.

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But the sloppiness pops up again in every dialogue scene, of which there are many. While the completely broken English throughout is a bit stifling, worse is that the text doesn’t break across lines very well, either. Leaving stray letters from the ends of words on entirely separate lines from where the word began. This makes following whatever narrative is occurring more labor than labor of love.

That’s too bad, because there’s some intriguing RPG stuff here, including the ability to master more than 15 different skills as you upgrade your character. Having two characters to switch off from is also a neat idea, letting players alternate, depending on who has the better weapon for the particular situation.

Overall, Terra is a confusing experience. There are elements to admire, most of them gameplay-related, but the other aspects of the app feel incomplete, at best. Gamers with a good deal of patience could find something to enjoy here, but this isn’t an app for everyone.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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