Project 83113 is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shooter for iOS and Android that will charm, dazzle, and pleasantly surprise you. Push ‘Play’ from the opening menu and you’ll meet Belle (a.k.a. 83113), a neotenous, purple cat-like creature with four arms and an equal amount of guns. Born in a futuristic world controlled by malicious machines, she is the last hope for her people against an existence of slavery and total domination. Using strategy, a handful of upgradable weapons and deft acrobatic maneuvers, players take Belle through more than 30 levels of incredibly action-packed combat on a desperate quest to defeat the evil robot leaders.
Based on my time with this game on the iPad, I found that it utilizes touchscreen technology impressively well. Players control Belle’s movements using an intuitive swiping system while she automatically targets and fires at enemies. With numerous foes often on screen at once, you’ll quickly be thankful for the assistance. She can run, double-jump, slide, dash, and float, all while her guns blaze madly in every direction. Along the way, there are hidden tokens in each level that grant points toward weapon upgrades, permanent health increases, or backstory tidbits about Belle’s world. Mega Man and Contra lovers will fit right in here.
83113 hits the trifecta: graphics, gameplay, and plot. While not the most stunning game on the iPad, it has an artful style that bridges ‘cute’ with ‘post-apocalyptic.’ Background images are detailed and dynamic, and combat provides a myriad of colorful chaos. Gameplay, though challenging, is fluid and highly entertaining from beginning to end. A level-based scoring system offers minor replay value. I was also very pleased about getting through the game without having to spend money on in-app purchases. Belle’s story is told creatively through a series of stylistic stills at various chapters of the game, an approach that’s both narratively interesting and open to imaginative interpretation. It’s simple, but it’s much better than you typically get for other free or $1 games in the app store.
Unfortunately, casual gamers can easily beat this game in a day or two. That’s not particularly uncommon for mobile games, but when we’re given something as good as Project 83113, we naturally want more of it. The control scheme offered here, while fluid, does take some getting used to. When you swipe forward, Belle moves in that direction, but doesn’t stop until you touch and hold the screen. This mechanic seems counterintuitive at times, especially when attempting to make jumps and dashes that require precision. My only real complaint – I wasn’t a huge fan of the bonus missions in which you control Rob, an organic-friendly robot with hover abilities. They are painstakingly boring, buggy, and required to complete if you want to unlock every weapon.
Overall, Project 83313 is a short, action-intensive game that gives players more than just a way to pass the time on the metro. For free. Upon completion of the final boss, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is only a taste of what we’ll be getting in time from Belle and her endearing sharpshooting.