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Perfect Cell begins life with a short, sharp story focusing on the eponymous creature's arrival on Earth. Landing as nothing more than a few alien cells riding on a meteorite, these cells grow and multiply at an alarming rate while under secret scientific scrutiny at a submarine base.
Before long, it's man-sized, and breaks out of captivity and looks for escape. You come into play as the new-born life form, and it's up to you to help it find a way through the labyrinthine tunnels, passageways and air ducts of the secret base. The facility is occupied by scientists and military alike, and none of them want the Perfect Cell finding its freedom.
Along the way you encounter other cells that can merge with your own to provide new powers and more methods of escape.
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New Life, Old Genre
At its core, Perfect Cell is a puzzle game, though it's beautifully disguised with an invigorating action sci-fi aesthetic and unique touchscreen controls.
The puzzle elements are presented by the 3D level designs. Finding your way through the complex is a task in itself, but this is a secure facility that's heavily guarded by military men with machine guns, remote lasers and movement-activated defences. It's up to you whether to opt for a stealthy escape, or to take out every human you meet along the way.
Your cell swims through the air with stunning elegance, centering in wherever you hold your finger on the screen. Swipe across the iPhone's touchscreen and it makes a deadly dash in that direction that cuts down any humans in its path. This is your primary form of attack, and can be combined with invisibility by keeping the cell perfectly still (at which point its camouflage reflex kicks in), and then launch it at adversaries when their backs are turned.
As the game progresses you learn new skills, such as splitting the cell in two to perform two actions at once, and tracing a line around the screen that the cell then follows in a high-speed attack. Perfect Cell offers a very organic control system that keeps you moving, and the action white hot at all times.
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Without its visual sheen, the unique gameplay of Perfect Cell wouldn't be half as impressive. The game is viewed entirely from the side, but the three-dimensional style adds a lot of depth to the facility that pulls you into the action.
The creature itself is beautifully animated, with flowing tendrils and an ethereal glow following it against the walls. Any humans you cut down are equally impressive, with ragdoll physics bouncing them off walls and over ledges in a very realistic manner. And this isn't a clean and sterile facility, painted instead with a murky, underwater feel and an increasingly dismal, army-worn veneer that crumbles the walls and gives the air an austere, prison-like atmosphere.
At times your fingers do seem to get in the way of the action a bit, but it's an intense game that never leaves you inactive for long, so it's a minor issue.
These days, anything over a couple of bucks seems expensive on the App Store, and Perfect Cell's whopping 200MB download doesn't make this a quick grab and fast play. But there are a lot of levels included and the sheer weight of imagination and creativity behind the development makes sure it earns its money and is more than worth the wait when downloading.