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Traal

Traal pits a lost man against the unknown. With zero exposition or functionality introduction, and no option to return to the menu, you’re left to fend for yourself. This title stands out from the App store norm with an atmospheric tone that outweighs its simple aesthetics as it places you deep in some unholy labyrinth straight from a Lovecraftian tale. While undoubtedly flawed, it captures elements of both Cadaver which haunted me as a child, and Amnesia, the recent Lovecraftian cult hit, and makes them its own; an adventure worth undertaking.

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“Death happens a lot”Dragging your finger across the screen moves the green character in that direction. This can become fiddly in more complicated rooms as it’s not entirely intuitive and gauging speed takes some readjustment. One room in particular took me nigh-on fifty attempts when repeatedly running into the same spike in a rush to avoid an oncoming monstrosity. The character’s line of sight essentially acts as a torch with a limited range displayed by the highlighted area onscreen. Should his sight catch some undesirable beast of the abyss, he’ll flee in the opposite direction in a mad panic. This can lead him into a pit spike or the many mouths of some one-eyed fiend. Later, his fright can be used to an advantage to make him sprint through breakable structures, opening new areas to explore.

The purpose becomes apparent once the first scroll is discovered. Adorned with ancient hieroglyphs, there are eleven separate scrolls to collect in the hope that this will bring some form of salvation to our lost protagonist. The hard part is doing so and then leaving each room without dying. Failure will return the scroll back to its location, creating some devilish environments to survive. Therefore death happens a lot; one hit will cleave the character’s head from his shoulders. The absence of loading screens helps elevate some of the inherent nuisance caused by failure.

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“Ambient soundscape ”Developers Alan Hazeldale (creator of These Robotic Hearts of Mine) and Jonathan Whiting source sounds from a free library and use them to great effect. Though limited, the ambient drones and screeches creates a morbid fascination; it makes the labyrinth an oddity, an otherworldly domain of lost hope and certain death. This ambient soundscape in turn helps to create a somewhat calming notion, further smoothing the edges of anger when inevitably dying from the controls. Combine this with the difficulty and inability to defend oneself and Traal is a rare entry into survival horror on iOS.

Having completed one playthrough the second was underway, this time I hoped to find all the scrolls and unlock the truth. Encountering a game breaking bug where you’re unable to move after making contact with the corner of a wall, yhe only way out is a hard shutdown and reboot. It was here that progress was lost upon restarting. My thumb must have been more over ‘New’ rather than ‘Continue’. The beginning of the maze materialised. Hard shutting down the app again and rebooting it, ‘Continue’ was selected and indeed all progress had been accidently lost. There’s a reason an ‘Are you sure?’ screen is now an expected part of design.

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And so a new game was started and played through yet again. There’s no argument to be made that Traal isn’t flawed in functionality at times, low-key and a mountain of frustration. It evidently is. Yet, like some of the more underground and obscure cinema of the 80’s thanks to the VHS explosion, it’s endearing. Traal is a fine example when it all falls into place of the home coding, floppy-disk mentality that once reigned during the Amiga days. Download it, squeeze your phone in frustration and come away surprised. I certainly did.

Version 1.1.0 reviewed

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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