Dead Space tells the story of Vandal, an engineer in the Church of Unitology sent by his superiors on a atop-secret mission involving the marker. The events here occur in the days leading up to Dead Space 2, and the player will see the beginning of the outbreak first hand. There is very little in terms of interaction, what little there is restricted to voice chats with an unseen guide. However, this actually helps the experience, making the player feel even more isolated within the massive halls of Titan Station.
The game makes some of the best use of touch controls I have ever seen. the left side controls movement, the right aiming and shooting. Tapping once brings up Vandal's weapon, tapping again fires. This is Dead Space, so like the other games, you need to dismember your enemies to kill them. Aiming is very smooth, you simply drag your finger across the screen to line up the shot. I personally feel it would have been cooler if you just tap where you want to shoot, and aiming is automatic, but that's a very small gripe.
Like the core games, the HUD is nearly nonexistant. Health and ammo are located on Vandal's RIG. Tapping the ammo count on the weapon reloads, and touching the stasis meter on Vandal's back activates it. Items you can throw with Kinesis have a small icon over them, which you tap to bring close, tapping again launches them. The only actual button on the screen is a small icon in the top right, which brings up the inventory (plus a waypoint icon). Just like in the main series, opening the inventory DOES NOT pause the game.
In order to streamline the experience (which in this case is a good thing), health and stasis now recharge. However it takes some time, so upgrading is still necessary. Luckily, workbenches and stores are still strewn throughout the Sprawl, as well as the node-locked rooms. There are in-game purchases available via the app store to make your life easier, but this is no different from using DLC in the main games.
Dead Space is incredibly linear, as the player is forced down a series of hallways and small rooms. Most enemy encounters involve being sealed into a room, several enemies drop in, Vandal kills them, and the doors open. Sometimes a necromorph will be playing dead in the hall, but the majority of the combat is confined to standard monster-closets. That being said, despite it's predictability, Dead Space actually succeeds beyond it's console brethren at being a survival horror game. This is due to the general scarcity of ammo, resulting from smaller (or nonexistant) enemy drops.
Like Isaac in Dead Space 2, vandal appears to suffer from some sort of psychological meltdown. However it works much better here, the halucinations actually causing real terror and causing me to question what is and isn't real. Dead Space has great length (5 hours on hard) for a handheld game. The ability to play again ith upgrades extends the value.
The game is incredibly sharp. Vandal's suit is beautifully rendered, and enemies are as terrifying as they appear in 720p. The retina display of the iDevices is on full display here. The sound is, as you'd expect, superb. Playing with headphones in (as the game suggests when you load it up) amplifies the experience.
My only actual complain about the game, actually has to do with the hardware. As I said, the game takes about 4-5 hours to complete. However, if you want to do this in one sitting, make sure you have you charger, and something to plug it into, handy. Playing for an hour and a half brought me from full charge to below 20%. This is with the general settings brightness low. Just something to keep in mind.
Dead Space is, from a purely qualitative standpoint, the best game on the app store. It may not be as addictive as games like Angry Birds or PvZ, but few games manage to cram a near-console experience into such a small machine. Dead Space joins games such as NOVA and GTA Chinatown Wars as proof that the iDevices are viable gaming platforms-if only they could improve the battery life.
(Please note, this score is 'scaled' to represent that it was reviewed on a handheld device. Obviously, the standards are going to be different from a iDevice game to a $60 PS3 game.)