When Dead Space came out of nowhere and scared the pants off everyone at PALGN, we were thrilled at the birth of a new horror franchise in video games. Since then, we have also seen the likes of Dead Space Extraction on the Wii and we await the arrival of Dead Space 2. To try and bridge the gap somewhat, developers Visceral Games have created Dead Space Ignition. Set in between the original Dead Space and its upcoming sequel, Ignition is a puzzle game that tells the story of the next necromorph outbreak. Ignition is a significant departure for the series in many ways - and not necessarily in a positive sense. Though it is far from a horrible playing experience, Dead Space Ignition is an uninspired puzzler probably best left to diehard fans of the Dead Space series wishing to soak up every bit of story that they can.
The gameplay of Dead Space Ignition consists of variations on three different puzzle games, the solving of which the creators have tried to integrate into the game's storyline. The first puzzle consists of guiding a light stream through an electronic obstacle course to beat the viruses that are racing alongside you. Along the way you will encounter speed boosts to put you ahead of the pack and a variety of barriers and blocks that will impede your progress to the finish line. The second game is a tower attack-style mini-game, where you must penetrate guard barriers to destroy a core security module, using two different types of virus attacks. The last game involves reflecting light beams off mirrors in order to power up charge stations which will unlock components inside the compound. Initially you will only work with red and green light beams, but in later levels you must use splitters and mixers to produce yellow beams. Each of these games is produced well enough and remain free of glitches, but they are not particularly exciting or engaging to play. There are also some issues with their difficulty balance - the first game can alternate between ridiculously easy and infuriatingly hard, while the tower attack-style mini game is relatively easy - all it really takes to complete is continuous fire against everything between you and your goal. On the other hand, the light reflector game boils down to a process of trial and error and remains decidedly uninspired.
As you complete puzzles, you will sometimes be given a choice of what to do next in the story. This can have an impact on just how the game ends and the exact puzzles you shall encounter, and gives a small hint of variety in an otherwise straightforward puzzler.
The art style of Dead Space Ignition can be described as questionable at best. the creators have gone for a comic book style that is very mixed in quality. The faces of the crew members tend to be very muddy and scribbled from certain points, with movements consisting mainly of arms and legs stiffly jolting one way or another. Bizarrely enough. the various necromorphs that are encountered through the story are filled with more life and are far more compelling to look at in all of their mutated glory.
Dead Space Ignition possesses far greater sound design than its graphical presentation prowess. All of the voice acting involved does an adequate job of conveying the urgency and danger of the situation that the crew finds themselves in, and the guttural warbling of the necromorphs are a real treat to listen to. The robotic voice that you will encounter as you tackle the puzzles within security systems is suitably disembodied for the task that it serves. Other sound effects, including the ping of lasers and the rattle of machine gun fire in cut-scenes are also fairly respectable.
The lifespan of Dead Space Ignition is lengthened somewhat by the choose your own adventure element of the game, and will require more than a single play-though for you to see all the possible paths on offer. Online leaderboards are also present for those who wish to test their might on the international scene. However, it's very questionable if you would actually want to play through the game again to achieve high scores or get extra bits of the story shown, as the core gameplay remains difficult to engage with.
As an attempt to fill in the story gap between Dead Space and Dead Space 2, Ignition manages to be fairly competent; those wanting to know all they possibly can about the universe will have something to look forward to. In saying that, however, the story isn't incredibly gripping and doesn't contain any big reveals or surprises to really make players stand up and take notice. However, as a game itself, its merits are fairly lacklustre. Dead Space Ignition isn't faulty or broken, but it may not hold your interest for very long or warrant any replays.