There's a certain delight in going far too fast, even in a simple smartphone game. Descent (no, not that one) brings you that 'past the red line' experience to Windows Phone, asking you to zoom through a never ending tunnel peppered with obstacles, fuel, and power-ups. Stripped down to the basics, this is an impressive little graphical tour de force for Windows Phone. And it's fun as well.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52.
For the old school gamer, this feels a lot like S.T.U.N. Runner, with the removal of the guns and the addition of accelerometer controls. Those of you coming afresh, your craft (which you never see) is in a very long, very twisty, neon lit tunnel. You'll accelerate down the tunnel, staying in contact with the walls, and spinning around the outside to avoid the pesky barriers that litter the inside.
Your speed builds up automatically, so while you might think that after a few seconds this is going to be a simple matter of planning a route around the occasional pillar, think again. Once the game gets going, the speed builds up and Descent shows its true colours - a hyper fast racing game requiring accurate reactions, instant decision making, and a calm head. It also helps that I don't get migraines, because at top speed the tunnel movement is hypnotic. Then you pick up a boost, and the whole experience is like being strapped to the front of the Millennium Falcon. Wheee!!!! does not begin to describe it, but it's a good start.
Avoiding things is not the key to success - picking up objects littering the side of the tunnel is. You don't have a huge amount of energy stored in your craft, and every time you slam into an obstacle and come to a juddering halt, you'll lose buckets of energy. Yes, you get to start building up the speed again and have a few minutes of low speed, but it's a big trade off. There are fuel pods dotted around the tunnel, but you'll need to spot them in the distance, decide if you want to go for that one, and then spin round the tunnel (by tilting your phone) to get in place.
Invariably the fuel pods are next to the obstacles, hence the accuracy needed on top of your reactions to get to the fuel. This does take some time, and thankfully the early levels are empty enough that you can practice spotting the fuel boxes as early as possible to get into position.
Once you get the hang of getting to the fuel in the first levels, you should be able to stay alive to rack up enough distance travelled to unlock the second level. Descent has twenty two levels, all unlocked in different ways. Some require you to survive a certain distance, others will ask you to pick up and use three yellow "boost" power-ups, blue acceleration bolts, or green tokens. This is a great way to let the player feel like they are making progress through a game which is, admittedly, a one trick pony of speed.
But what a pony it is.There's no slow-down, it feels fast, it looks stunning, and there's lots going on with various obstacles, power ups, and tunnel marking lines to convey that speed. It all works, and that shows both good coding and artistic success.
I've only two small issues. The first is the font - while looking nicely futuristic, it is sometimes hard to make out on the smaller screen of the Nokia Lumia 800. This should be an easy fix in later versions of the application to increase clarity. The other is the trial version. Perhaps the time limit to experience the first level is a little bit too short to give you a good feel of the game, but the tiny taster it did offer me was enough to part with £0.79p, which is a pretty good price for a casual game like this.
The trial is a must, because this is not a game that has universal appeal. Fans of arcade games should feel right at home here, going through the levels and then heading towards the high score.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at