Big Bucket Software
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
Requires iOS 3.0 or later.The Incident,
Age Rating: 4+
As far as pick-up-and-play games go, it doesn’t get much simpler than “avoid falling objects to stay alive”, which is the basic premise of The Incident, an addictive retro-styled action game for the iPhone and iPad that was developed by Perth-based Big Bucket Software’s Matthew Comi together with Neven Mrgan (from long-time Mac developer Panic).
The Incident puts you in the role of Frank Solway, an ordinary man-in-a-suit, who is alarmed to find random objects falling from the sky while he waits for a taxi. You must dodge these descending objects, which include stop signs, cars, desks, and more bizarre items like giant pink teddy bears, ancient statues, and LEGO-esque bricks, all-the-while climbing upward in search of the source of the trouble. There are seven levels that take you up into the mountains, atmosphere, and even outer space, in addition to a B-mode, which lets you replay the game under slightly different circumstances. It also has four achievements and a Trophy Room, which records the height and cause of your many in-game deaths.
The Incident is billed as a retro game, and that is true to an extent, but there is little retro about it – aside from its charming 8-bit-style visuals and chiptune soundtrack. It takes modern game design trends and lays them on top of a clean and simple interface. You control Frank by tilting the device to move left and right, and tapping anywhere on the screen to jump. A white line flashes at the top of the screen to indicate the size and location of the next object to fall. You climb the growing pile and can move objects by walking into them, but if you get blocked-off, you’ll need to shake yourself free.
You can hop in and out of the game at a moment’s notice. If you need to exit, you can rest assured that you’ll return at the most recent checkpoint, losing at most two or three minutes of progress. And you can start playing from any level, provided you have beaten each of the levels that come before it at least one time. Unlike the games it imitates, The Incident wants you to succeed, not fail. It is difficult without being frustrating.
There’s also more to the game than just its “avoid falling objects” core. Each level has a certain number of gems to collect, while various power-ups and power-downs float up in balloons from below, providing health upgrades, temporary shielding, or health reduction, amongst other things. I counted six such items altogether.
The randomness and unpredictability with which these items appear works both for and against the experience. On the one hand, they make the game more interesting and hectic – you will often find yourself desperately trying to reach the other side of the screen, either to get a much-needed power-up or to dodge a crippling health reduction without getting your head knocked in by a falling piano. But this comes with a caveat – sometimes there is no safe place to run or jump; there are times when no amount of skill can keep you alive.
Thankfully, it is exceptionally easy to gain additional lives. Diligent players may never see the game over screen (which is surprisingly relaxing to look at and listen to, by the way). You get a 1UP (extra life) for every ten coins collected and for each gem recovered, and there are 500 coins spread throughout the game.
It’s not often that a game takes the charm and simplicity of the 8-bit era, then layers modern game design sensibilities on top, leaving room for a kind of play that rewards you more than it punishes you. It’s easy to learn and fun to play, with a concept that feels fresh and original. If you have any fondness or nostalgia for retro games, you will enjoy The Incident.The Incident,