Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
It’s difficult to resist the urge to jam a quarter into your iPhone when playing Inferno+. That’s because this addictive shooter plays like a hidden relic from the glory days of the arcade of the early ’80s, if it were created by a contemporary artist with a devotion to the laser-noir aesthetic of the Tron movies.
The game’s influences range from the minimalist black backdrop of old-school zap-’ems like Asteroids to the corridor-crawling gameplay of Gauntlet. To top it off, the bright yellow spherical object you control resembles a robotic version of Pac-Man. The game’s almost religious devotion to sparseness extends beyond its looks—it’s missing any sort of story or gameplay hints, and unlocking the brutal “New Game+” mode is the only reward for conquering all 40 levels. The only concession Inferno+ makes to modern gaming is the existence of a light “class” system—you have four different ships to choose from—and a shop filled with upgrades.
Retro shooters aren’t uncommon on iOS, but what separates Inferno+ from the pack is its deliberate pace. Instead of having to continuously dodge enemy fire in a cavernous open space, the maze-like layout of the levels allows you to use duck-and-dodge guerrilla tactics when facing off against the game’s garishly colored enemies. Other combatants lie just beyond force-field barriers unlocked by keys found strewn about each level. Never mind the Inferno in the name. The game offers a chilly, distant world—albeit one likely to warm the hearts of crusty arcade lovers.