There’s no doubt that the basic idea of this game is very cool, especially as it involves Dark Horse comics, who published the Terminator book, of course, so you know it’s going to look good. Makers Big Head Games only have one other mini out so far, International Snooker, which was okay but not that thrilling, so it was always going to be interesting to see how they handled such an iconic franchise.
I’m a huge fan of the Terminator films, especially Terminator 2, so I was dying to play this mini, but really there’s not much here to get Terminator fans that excited about aside from the awesome main menu artwork and the brief bits of plot description at the start of each stage in Story Mode. It’s neat to be running around shooting endless T800s as Kyle Reese, but that’s about all you get. Not even any extra artwork from Dark Horse .
Overall The Terminator is really just a straightforward top-down shooter very similar in feel to Chillingo’s Dracula – Undead Awakening, only without as many interesting modes to hold your attention. Also, unlike Dracula, the location is exactly the same throughout, until the very last stage of Story Mode.
Furthermore, unlike Chillingo’s game, there’s no option to shoot with the controller, instead you have just one control method, whereby you use the Square, Triangle, O and X buttons to shoot in different directions, and the directional buttons and analog stick to move. In fairness, though, you really don’t need any other control method as this works pretty well, and if you should find it difficult you can always enable Auto Target which makes it even easier.
The game has three difficulty levels: Rookie, Normal and Pro, and two gameplay modes: Story Mode and Quick Game. In Quick Game mode you rescue your fallen comrades and carry them a short distance to a flashing green extraction point. Other than that, you basically just keep running around shooting things until you die, when you’ll get presented with a Stats screen showing your score and how many enemies you’ve killed and so on. There’s no leaderboard though to compare scores, so the high score is simply a chance to pat yourself on the back.
In Story Mode there are six stages, with just one unlocked from the beginning. At the start of each stage, there’s a text description of your objective, but essentially it’s more of the same gameplay from Quick Play mode – lots of running and gunning with the occasional interaction with a switch to activate it. There are also health pickups to collect, as well as Terminator heads for Salvage points and new weapons and ammo.
Of course it’s crucial that you manage to get your hands on some awesome weaponry in a game such as this where pretty much all you’re doing is shooting. The Gatling Gun is probably the one you’ll be using most, and it’s certainly a lot of fun dashing around the map and spraying the lead around like crazy. The Bazooka is also very satisfying, but you have to find it in the game first, and can only use it sparingly as shells are scare.
In terms of overall presentation, the game is very polished. The menacing background music really adds to the post-apocalyptic atmosphere, and the T800s, Hunter Killer Tanks and fiery explosions all look impressive. I also loved the comic-book detail of the background, the piles of skulls, the abandoned cars, the sense of desolation. It was, however, pretty much all the same background, right up until the last stage.
Despite the game’s slick look and sound, I’ve marked it low mainly because the Story Mode is so short. Most average players will only take a couple of hours to complete it, if that, and that really is too short. Quick Play is endless, of course, but there’s really not much more to the gameplay to keep you playing longer than an hour or so there either. If you’re happy playing Quick Mode unendingly then that’s fine, but I think most people will get bored after a few hours.
I don’t want to be too harsh on The Terminator because I did really enjoy playing it for a short time, but I just feel so much more could have been done with it, such a wasted opportunity. It feels so much like a straight port from the iPhone version with a few control tweaks. It’s okay, it’s fun for a few short hours, but the 59p you’d pay for the iPhone version of the game in the iTunes Store is probably a fair price.