Review of teh internets (Insurgent Games, 2009) for the iPod Touch and iPhone (LOL)

Bill Loguidice's picture

As their follow-up to the previously reviewed [(x)(x)(x)(x)( )] puzzler, Skeleton Key, Insurgent Games' teh internets, couldn't be more different. While Skeleton Key relied strictly on brainpower, teh internets relies strictly on your reflexes, attempting to tickle your funny bone along the way. What teh internets sets out to be is a tongue-in-cheek side scrolling shooter with more in common with classic era games in its gameplay than today's "bullet hell" variety, the latter of which is a decidely acquired and commercially niche taste. Not only is going the classic route a good choice since it's likely more appealing to a broader audience (and a personal preference of mine), but also because it's a better fit for the platform in general (in this case I used an iPhone 3G for the review).

Having a knowledge of classic Internet memes goes a long way to enjoying the game's humor, which pays proper homage to the momentary pop culture icons (check here for both South Park's take on classic memes and the original memes themselves). From the Dramatic Gopher who is your host during the tutorial, to your ASCII-inspired ROFL- and LOL-rotored helicopter, there are no shortage of winks and nods to not only the World Wide Web, but computing in general. Nevertheless, all the humor in the world couldn't salvage a game deficient in gameplay, but luckily, teh internets delivers. While the gameplay is hardly ambitous - this is a pure shooter through and through - the execution works. Of course, though the descriptor is a convenient one, calling it a "shooter" is not entirely correct, because you don't actually get to shoot anything, you just attempt to collect lolcats and try to avoid nearly everything else, like popup windows and a variety of trolls.

One of the failings of platforms like the iPhone and iPod Touch are the lack of physical controls, so everything must be implemented virtually, including joysticks and d-pads. The implementation of a virtual controller can make or break a game. Luckily, by keeping the d-pad in the lower left of the screen and managing to keep responsiveness high, control is rarely an issue. Simply being responsible for maneuvering your helicopter, rather than also shooting, helps to maximize screen real estate. While having your thumb (especially a stubby one like mine) obscure an enemy coming at you from behind still happens, the only other design alternative would have been to make the lower third of the screen a control zone, a la the commercial Commodore 64 emulator, which would have naturally lessened the already sparse screen real estate.

Graphically, the game is unexceptional, but clean, with smooth scrolling. Music and sound effects are similarly simple, but equally effective, and extend the cheeky presentation. The game's most interesting feature is its use of OpenFeint for global leaderboards and achievements, concepts first popularized on Microsoft's Xbox 360. Many people - myself included - think incorporating such features in games makes them more enjoyable, and teh internets's implementation is no exception. With 23 achievements to unlock ("imma let you finish!") and nine different leaderboards to compete on, the "just one more play" vibe is well maintained. It can also automatically post your achievements to your Facebook page, to the delight of you and the annoyance of your friends.

Bottom line, if you're looking for an easy to play action game and would like the occasional chuckle, it's hard to go wrong with teh internets, particularly with the compelling OpenFeint features and the fact that the game is only .99 until January 1, 2010. Even for $1 more, it's worth it. Another four out of five stars [(x)(x)(x)(x)( )] for Micah Lee and Insurgent Games.

(Special thanks to developer Micah Lee for providing me with a free download code to review the game.)

teh internets icon:
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The title screen:
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The virtual d-pad in action. Watch out for that pop-up!:
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Grab those lolcats!:
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I 'sploded:
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You'll see this screen a lot:
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The action gets a lot busier than this:
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The Leaderboards:
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Achievements:
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My friends get to know every intimate detail via Facebook, automagically:
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Insurgent Games' official teh internets trailer: