Intake for iPad review

Intake landed on iPad today, offering an insane amount of challenge in a really unique package. In short, pills fall from the top of the screen, and you have to tap them before they hit the bottom. They'll come in one of two different colors, and you need to switch between those two colors by tapping the bar at the bottom of the screen. If you have the right color active while tapping the right pill, you get extra points and earn a score multiplier if you can keep a string of them going. Even if the pill hits the bottom, if you have the same color active, you'll be shielded from an overdose. If you hit certain waypoints, such as level 25, you can chose to start there rather than from the beginning, though expect a challenge.

At the end of each gruelling wave, you get a sprinkling of white vitamins to pop, which then get added to your bank and spent on upgrades in the drugstore. When you get a game over, you get a bonus round that feeds players a generous sprinkling of vitamins to pop, though I find it's easy to get carried away here and accidentally get booted out of the app due to an accidental multitouch gesture. It may be worth flipping those off in your iOS options before playing. Drugstore items include extra lives, so you can let a pill through and still keep playing, or a random occasional power-up that makes pills bigger and easier to hit. Each of the power-ups can be upgraded multiple times for increased effectiveness.

Though working through as many levels as possible is the primary game mode, you can test yourself in Challenge mode, which offers particularly hard waves that you normally only get once every five levels. These include an acceleration mode, which flings a few pills at high velocity at you, or flood, which has a massive, slow-moving tide of pills to eliminate. To make matters worse, you don't get any power-ups to help you out. Serious achievement hunters can even unequip power-ups in the core game and go for broke.

The music in Intake is fantastic and chock-full of dubstep influence. Soundtrack is always front and center with Cipher Prime games, but there's one fairly significant complaint to be made here: you only get one track to start with. You can unlock new music tracks for 20,000 mg to start (which is a fair bit, considering the first upgrades are around 5,000), but in the meantime, you're stuck with a loop of a song that will grate on you the 100th. time you hear it. Of course you can always turn off the music in the settings, but then you're losing a critical part of the game. I would have much rathered have all of the tracks available and picked at random when you started playing, or at least unlocked as you hit higher-level waypoints.

Although Cipher Prime has been traditionally against freemium tropes like incessant prompts for in-app purchases, you can accelerate your progress in Intake by buying vitamins through IAPs. There are zero pop-ups or reminders to make these purchases, and you actually have to dig around a little bit in the game menu to find them, but they're still there for those that want to fast track. Personally, I see this as the classiest way to implement IAPs, and encourage other devs to take notes. Intake is currently an iPad-only game, and may be straight-up impractical for iPhone, seeing as you really need two hands and a lot of screen to play this game well. Important features like Game Center and cloud saving are both included.

Intake is a fresh take on a pill-popping theme we haven't seen much of since Dr. Mario, and aided with a few points of retro charm such as an "Insert Coin" prompt on the first screen preceded by a 16-bit warning from the FBI to not do drugs. The challenge rating may be too high casual gamers, but the controls are instinctive and easy to pick up regardless. Overall, Intake is an intense trip that will suck you in and leave you burned out.

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.