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P1 Select review – don’t judge this game by its cover

Developer: Michael Brough
Price: $3/£3
Size: 5.1MB
Version: 1.04
Platform: iPhone & iPad

P1 Select

Most of the games we cover here are what you might call easy on the eye, whether it’s the rolling hills of Sky: Children of Light or the plush platforms of Ordia.

Which might make you wonder why on Earth we’d choose to review P1 Select. Let’s not beat around the bush here: it’s flat out ugly, with a ‘my first video game’ style that doesn’t get any prettier over time.

The blue triangle is the level exit

But that’s not where P1 Select does its best work. Developer Michael Brough has made a name for himself creating inventive ‘mini roguelikes’ with garish but somewhat charmingly naive aesthetics, and this is yet another fine example.

Each procedurally generated single-screen level requires you to swipe to move your character towards the level exit. Every time you make a move, the enemies that lurk in that level will take a step towards you. You can attack those enemies with a double-fingered swipe, but you have to be within range and you also have to have sufficient ammunition.

Each swipe changes to a new character

That ammunition takes the form of rings, which can be collected from around each level. Alternatively, you can simply head straight for the exit.

Those are the basic mechanics of P1 Select, and they make it sound like any number of existing roguelike games on the App Store. But there’s a deeply strange character selection system that sets it apart from the rest.

Each character has its own attributes

Every time you move, you morph into another character with a different set of attributes. These are mapped to the precise direction you move, and you’ll find the full roster permanently listed in the top half of the screen.

One character might attack enemies several squares away, like a sniper. Another might take out several enemies immediately in front of you, like it was wielding a shotgun. Each also has their own hit points and attack costs to factor into play.

The Midas turns enemies into valuable Pontos

Learning and mastering these different characters, and learning how to deliberately bring the best ones into play (or avoid the weak ones) while dealing with enemies is the real key to P1 Select. And it’s something that provides surprising depth.

There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a rather unwelcoming game, both in terms of its visual allure and the lack of clear signposting. Those swipe controls aren’t particularly intuitive either.

Pontos mean points, and you’re aiming for the best average score

But when you cut through all these surface quibbles, we haven’t played a game that’s as downright interesting as P1 Select in quite a while. It’s beguiling, and that counts for a lot. Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book – or a mobile game – by its cover.