Solid Atmosphere: backgrounds, secondary events, and art design and good.
Shallow gameplay: killing guards gets old fast, and puzzles aren't difficult at all
Missed Opportunity: Perfect Cell could've been a lot more, but seems hampered by an attempt to make it "casual"
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Mobigame's Perfect Cell was the IMGA People's Choice winner this year, and is a game crafted specifically for touch-screen mobile devices. Not surprisingly then, Perfect Cell has a lot going for it: solid visuals, interesting gameplay, touch controls - and yet I wouldn't call it perfect. Though there's a lot to like (in particular, there's a vague resemblance to Shadow Complex here), I don't think Perfect Cell has strong staying power, largely because exploration feels largely shallow and the touch controls don't feel as sharp as they could. So call it a mixed bag.
The premise of perfect cell is that deep underwater in a testing facility, an organic life form has been created which self-heals rapidly, and is essentially a new bio-weapon for the military-industrial complex. Shockingly, then, when the Perfect Cell escapes and begins killing the station's guards, things haven't gone as planned! In control of the Perfect Cell, you use the touch screen to float around (or strike, upon swiping the screen) and kill as many people as you can find: scientists, soldiers, everyone associated with your creation. Each level is graded on the percentage of kills available as well as finding a few hidden items around each level. There's plenty of levels to be had, each ramping up the difficulty overall, so there's pretty solid value to be had too.
The game has an interesting atmosphere for sure. As you meander (and kill) your way through each level, you'll bear witness to events beyond the focus of your Cell; for instance, scientists bloodied bodies as guards have gunned them down. These scenes to a lot to set the atmosphere of the game and fill in some of the context of the greater storyline. In part this is because there are moments when the level and art design deign to usher in sensibilities beyond the simple gameplay. That's saying a lot for what is essentially an action-puzzle-platformer with very simple mechanics.
Unfortunately, Perfect Cell falters on a few important points. First, the controls aren't as sharp as they ought to be. Touching the screen moves the Cell in said direction, and swiping strikes quickly, and yet the controls don't feel sharp. Swiping doesn't always work effectively, and dividing your cell into multiple cells (an unlocked ability) is also finicky and therefore largely not very useful. Second, there's not nearly enough exploration in Perfect Cell. Though there are a few secret chambers to be found, most of the game consists of sneaking around and then striking the soldiers you find. Mobigame would've done better to emulate aspects of Shadow Complex (or Metroid) and incorporate more complexity into the puzzle-element of gameplay. Rather than simply emphasizing level by level play, they should've made the game one large level with deeper puzzle complexity. Dividing the game into levels ultimately makes the gameplay feel unrewarding, especially since the "puzzles" mostly involve hitting a switch right next to the door it moves!
Perfect Cell is the sort of game I want to love. It has a good aesthetic and interesting premise. And yet, I found the gameplay to fall far behind what I expected of the play. Rather than an immersive complex game, Perfect Cell is a one-off play that doesn't have much staying power. For what it is, it's certainly playable and a fine game, but ultimately I felt it was underwhelming.