Woah, I got caught up reading about Xibalba there. In addition to being the name of a Southern Lord hardcore band (good lord, that’s heavy), Xibalba is – primarily – the name of the underworld in Mayan mythology, loosely translated as “place of fear”.
It’s also a rather fantastic retro FPS (first-person shooter) on the App Store, available for… wait for it… free. No adverts, no in-app purchases, just free. Go get it.
Xibalba is the work of Dominic Szablewski, aka Phoboslab, and I’m slightly concerned that this dude isn’t making any money from Xibalba directly, though he does seem to have a larger portfolio of stuff including XType Plus for the Wii U.
Anyway! Let’s be selfish for now and focus on Xibalba for your iPhone and/or iPad. Again, it’s an old school FPS, very much in the vein of Doom and Wolfenstein.
As such, the various gameplay elements are immediately familiar: Red means lava means danger; blue means water, and if the pixels are changing colour that indicates that the water is trickling (obviously!); a smattering of light grey pixels means smoke; green pixels hanging from the ceiling represent vines.
Sing it with me: Three adjacent shotgun pellets means ammo; a red cross is your health pack; you can’t look up or down or jump. If you grew up playing the first generation of first-person shooters, all this will immediately, relentlessly tug on your nostalgia valves. Mmm, tingly.
In Xibalba’s beautiful pixelated world, you’re simply tasked with getting from A to B in each level, blasting enemies and occasionally collecting coloured key-cards to open their corresponding doors. What else?
In terms of controls, Xibalba works really freakin’ well. When I reviewed the first Dead Trigger game, I mused: “While proper console controllers afford you the luxury of moving and aiming and shooting at the same time, you can only ever do two at a time on a touch display.”
Not the case in Xibalba. Thanks to a recent update, you can move and shoot and turn simultaneously. Szablewski, you dawg.
Other things to love about Xibalba include the bizarre text between levels ("Three thousand suns /We endured /Till five met the eight"), and the atmosphere. Running round a corner only to encounter a giant roaring tree thingy is enough to make a man scream, and it’s all topped off with a fantastic soundtrack.
There’s one particular section I loved, too (slight spoiler alert), wherein you’re allowed to traverse a number of rooms unchallenged. I found myself constantly looking over my in-game shoulder, convinced I was walking into a trap.
Indeed (continuing the spoiler), it’s not until you collect the key at the end of the last room that the enemies approach from behind, effectively blocking your escape route. Simple, but bloody fantastic design.
There’s a twist with the final boss, too, with a slight puzzle/memory element, a fitting end to a surprisingly brilliant game.
My only gripe is that it’s too short (maybe around an hour, though there’s a Hard Mode if you’re a glutton for punishment), but considering I’ve invested exactly zero pence (gawd, I feel bad), I can hardly complain.
- The retro design
- Six different enemies
- Unique boss battle
- Quite short
- Only three weapons
- Too scary to play alone and/or in the dark
Summary: For those struggling to decipher my rambling review, Xibalba is great; short but great – and it’s free! Why are you not playing it right now?
Price: free @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 5.1.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.