Dark Hill

Stop…hey…what’s that sound…it’s Dark Hill from Nabil Chatbi of FBS Software (whose website is currently just a placeholder).  Dark Hill is a horror-themed 3D FPS and this is notable in that FPS games have only rarely been pulled off in a playable and fun way on the iPhone.  It’s made using the Unity game engine which has some decent credentials and is rather popular by the look of it.  So the story goes that all the inhabitants of Dark Hill were devoured by monsters and you are the sole survivor; no surprise then that your main job is to get the hell outta Dodge.  You start the game with a machine gun, a wee bit of ammo and your wits.  From there you explore the town, kill (or avoid) monsters and try to stay alive as you search for freedom.

First things first; if you grew up playing FPS games on your PC (like I did) and expect a similar experience from an iPhone you will be sorely disappointed; you simply have to recalibrate your expectations and give it a try.  That disclaimer out of the way, the game offers 10 levels and 3 weapons which is a decent amount of content for the low price.  You control your character with dual onscreen analog joysticks; the left controls movement and the right is aiming/direction or ‘freelook’.  In the middle is the fire button and you simply touch your weapon to switch once you’ve found a new one.  There are no powerups scattered about in this game which is ok as it’s in keeping with the realism and horror theme.  The only thing you can pickup in this game are weapons and ammo so there’s no inventory needed.  The environment is rendered with a dark, creepy look and the sound fx and BGM are appropriate to the mood.  There’s no question you’ll find yourself in some truly scary situations in this game, most of which you won’t survive on first attempt as the game is unrelenting in that way; 1 touch from any monster and it’s curtains for you and back to the beginning of the level.
Ah, gripes and suggestions, right on time.
  • The frame rate, although according to the 1.1 update improved, is still not good and this leads directly (at least by my logic) to a whole host of problems.  First of all is the subsequent choppiness when moving around the levels, resulting in getting stuck on objects, losing your sense of direction and most damningly the movement controls becoming completely unresponsive for seconds at a time (this one really was the kicker and admittedly I stopped playing after level 2 out of pure frustration).  Also affected is the aiming which is so jumpy as to be an exercise in willpower to get your cursor centered directly on a monster.  Lastly, you can end up blowing too much ammo as the game sometimes takes too long to realize you’ve stopped pressing the fire button; this can create unwinnable situations since ammo is critically scarce and no ammo basically equals death.
  • The 1 hit death seems a little extreme for this game, especially when monsters very obviously spawn almost directly behind you at times.
  • For all the choppiness, you might think the graphics are really good so fair trade.  Not so much…the levels are hit and miss with some being nicely detailed and others looking extremely plain.  The monsters are low-poly models (more a limitation of the hardware in fairness) but worse than that is the texturing on them; I couldn’t make out details on any of them as they all just looked like colors running together in a pixelicious soup.
In conclusion, I would have to call Dark Hill a work in progress moreso than a finished game.  I see potential here but my experience with the game just wasn’t a lot of fun (see above).  If there’s anything more that can be done about the framerate it would solve 95% of the complaints I could level at the game.  As it stands now I would say this game is strictly for those who just can’t get enough horror FPS games and don’t mind the hard limitations of the iPhone hardware.  The developer has been active over on the Touch Arcade forums so hopefully that means there will be further updates.
Once again you’re in luck, don’t have to take my word for it, head over to the comments section for a couple promo codes courtesy of the developer!
version reviewed – 1.1
reviewed on – iPhone 3G 8 GB 2.2.1
iTunes music support – yes

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