Saucelifter, a $2 arcade game from Madgarden with a free lite counterpart, is delightfully anachronistic. It combines deliciously retro vector graphics and old-school, Apple II/Commodore 64-era gameplay with the iPhone’s accelerometer, and the result is great. If you’re old and nerdy enough to fondly remember games like Choplifter, Defender, and the like, you’re certain to get some enjoyment from Saucelifter.
You control a flying saucer in the game. Your mission is to rescue your alien brethren, who’ve been left behind on the unforgiving, military-laden planet Earth. To steer, of course, you merely tilt the iPhone from side to side. The controls are sensitive, and there’s a short period of adjustment as you master them. Once you do, you’ll be tilting that saucer all over the place, attacking enemies and freeing aliens like nobody’s business.
The first level in Saucelifter is a tutorial, which simply explains the game’s premise and controls. From there, things get progressively tougher at a good clip. The game works great to fill up a few minutes of spare time, and I’m finding it highly replayable.
I’m also a sucker for the game’s sense of humor—when taking fire, the game advises you: “Do not collect the bullets,” and when you come in for a landing a bit too fast you might see “Bouncy bounce.” The sound effects are similarly well-implemented and perfectly suited to the game’s style—they’re exactly the sounds you’d want in an old-school flying saucer game.
The lite version includes the tutorial and the first four Easy levels, but skimps on extra niceties like high scores or the game’s cleverly executed sense of time. (In the regular version, as you play, the visuals adjust while the sun rises and sets.) If you’re not positive whether Saucelifter’s right for you, this is one Lite version that’s an excellent sampler to decide whether to spend your $2—the only knock against it is that it’s so short. The full version is a nostalgic blast.
Both versions of Saucelifter are compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.2 software update.