When this action/adventure/mining/Metroidvania title hit the scene in '11, Terraria took PCs by storm with its deft blend of multiple genres and clever use of randomly generated content. Now its developer, Re-Logic, has branched out and ported it to the iOS. Does this portable port manage to hang on to the original Terraria magic, or should we pile the dirt back on and leave it buried?
After creating a character from a variety of customization options, you'll be placed in a randomly-generated world. While Minecraft starts you off with little-to-no guidance, Terraria offers some help in the form of the Guide, a randomly named NPC who'll give you hints about the things you may want to do next. You also begin with an assortment of useful equipment — a pickaxe, a sword, etc. Using these tools of the trade you'll fend off monsters, dig for ores, gems, and treasure, and chop down trees.
The resources you gather can then be used to create armor, weapons, gadgets, and all sorts of building components. Want a glittering silver tower complete with trapdoors and spiked pits? You can build it. Does your heart desire an ominous, lava-spewing fortress that acts as the heart of your diabolical plan for world-domination? Build it. Or would you just like to create a castle, invite some friendly NPCs in, and decorate the place with some nice wall hangings. Build it! Or, if base-building isn't your thing, spend all of your time below the Earth's surface gathering up treasures, gaining power, and preparing yourself to fight one of Terraria's many fearsome bosses. Whatever you want to do, you can do it —Terraria's all about providing players with flexible, open-ended goals.
For a game that was built and optimized for the PC, Terraria's dual-virtual thumbstick scheme controls shockingly well on an iPad. There are also lots of subtle little quality-of-life additions to movement and mining that newbie players might not notice, like how you can automatically hop up small steps and gaps, or how the pickaxe smart-targets dirt and ore based on your facing/the way you're moving the right thumbstick. Also, if you really want to get precise, you can tap the area surrounding your character and it brings in a picture-within-picture view so that you can get a better look at what you're doing. Plus, if the charming 16-bit inspired graphics are too large and blocky for your tastes, or too zoomed-out for you too see, you can adjust them by pinching the screen.
Combat is one area that the game suffers, however, as it's much harder to do the kind of on-the-fly equipment switching that's necessary to combat some of Terraria's tougher creatures. So when things get hairy, you'll likely find yourself wishing for a mouse and keyboard or a controller.
Few games manage to port from PC to iOS so well as Terraria. This version contains a horde of new content that wasn't in the original PC release, and Re-Logic's dedication to not filling the game with advertising, in-app purchases, or any of the other trappings typical to iOS games, is admirable. It's clear that the Terraria team put fun first, which is why this is one can't miss iOS title.