Semi-Automatic is a standard, wave based arcade game, with a cooperative twist. The controls are scattered, making it difficult to operate the M.A.R.T.Y.R. without extra hands. What makes this game fun is the amount of versatility you have when playing it with other people. You can have one, two, or three partners, each operating their own device and keeping the evil robots at bay. For a four-level game, it’s a brief experience, but the real fun is playing with others.
The beeps and boops in the background you hear as you play fit the overall theme of the game and the feedback noises you get from utilizing the M.A.R.T.Y.R.‘s interface all feels comfortable and in place. The low quality sounds are a bit grating to the ears, and the most annoying element is the european voice actor that insists on telling the player every single time a weapon need to recharge. It is impressive to have a tutorial mode that uses a fully voiced character, and frankly very refreshing, considering that almost every single iOS game employs an instructions screen that utilizes text to guide the player. The drawback is the character talks too much, and his voice doesn’t blend well with the action on-screen.
While simplistic, the chunky, retro vibe fits well with the visuals, the higher resolution dials and knobs make the enemies seem stretched out of proportion. Rather than a flaw, this actually comes off as a bit charming, in my opinion. However, when the weapons at your disposal overheat or lose their charge, the words RECHARGING appears in a glaringly red font. This is not too bothersome, and is really picky at best, but it did make the game seem slightly unfinished. Other visual flaws include some of the characters not loading when they appear on-screen, and instead appear as white boxes until they finish loading. The presentation takes more of a functional approach rather than an aesthetically pleasing one.
The interface is where this game really shines. I could not imagine trying play this game on anything other than an iPad. Each function of the M.A.R.T.Y.R. has its own allocated space on the screen, and features a unique style of control. There is a section that allows you to launch missiles and reload them by flipping a switch, a dial you can spin to activate the shield, a button you can hold down to direct a magnet that will pick up health dropped by the enemies, and a laser with two modes that can be activated by plugging into either one and directing the beam. Cooperative play is subtly encouraged without telling you to play with others. Each level is represented by the number of hands you will need to survive (ex. When you reach level 3, three hands appear on the screen).
Overall, you will not get as much playability as you would out of your average iOS game, but it’s still a very fun diversion though. Playing with friends cooperatively on one screen is an experience by itself that has captured the attention of my friends and me. It is just a shame that there is not enough content to keep you coming back for more that a few times.