Tag Archives: Space Shooter

Icarus-X Review: High on polish, short on personality

The vertical shooter is becoming a well-worn staple of the app store and for every worthy entry to the genre, a multitude of disposable titles conspire to bury them. One of the newer and more notable vertical shooters is The Quadsphere‘s Icarus-X.

While many vertical shooters choose to be retro, Icarus-X embraces modern presentation with fluid 3D graphics and vivid colors. And despite packing such visual muscle, the game plays well even on older devices like my iPhone 3G, even when the screen is full of bullets and enemy ships.

Anyone who ever frequented arcades may remember looking over the older kids’ shoulders, in awe of their score amassing powers, studying their techniques, hoping that just some small amount of their skill might rub off on you when your turn came to play. The days of cabinet gaming may be in decline, but Icarus-X features downloadable replays, making it possible to watch other players’ games, much as we used to do in those arcades. So, if you’re in awe of n0name0 and want to see how he managed to achieve his massive score, you can download his game and do just that. Icarus-X also features a Slow-Motion Practice mode, where stages may be played at 100%, 75%, 50% or 25% their usual speed, allowing players to learn attack patterns and counter maneuvers at their own pace, and to hone their skills for the main game. With the vertical shooter genre largely catering to hardcore shooter fans, accessibility features such as these may make the game more appealing to the uninitiated.

Five stages of bullet hell await, in which wave upon wave of enemy ships will pelt your fighter with metal rain. Your ship — the Icarus-X — can be controls using either Direct or Relative touch controls. Direct will keep the ship positioned just above your finger, while Relative controls allow you to touch and swipe anywhere on the screen to move your ship. The Icarus-X will fire automatically whenever your finger is on the screen. Defeating every enemy will allow you to amass score multipliers and also build your combo gauge. Let even a single ship slip past you, however, and your score multiplier will reset. When the combo gauge is full, you can double-tap anywhere on screen to unleash a barrage of missiles against on-screen opponents. Stages are relatively short, but the game encourages you to replay, to perfect your skills and to constantly improve your score.

Likes:

Polish: Icarus-X is extremely well-polished. Controls are tight, the game performs well even on aging devices, and the graphics are crisp and clean. It’s a good looking game, and it feels right to play. The backgrounds get a little repetitive by the end of each stage, but they’re good-looking and never distracting. The accessibility features are well-thought out and implemented. Polish in every facet.

Bosses: The Icarus-X is a good looking ship and the enemy fighters are pretty nice looking as well, but it’s the boss ships that steal the show. They’re big, deadly looking and awesome, and they spew bullets and laser beams with reckless abandon.

Achievements: The game includes a list of achievements, most of which are pretty difficult to achieve. Players going for full completion will have a long and difficult trek ahead of them.

Dislikes:

Generic Feeling: Despite the polish, accessibility features and massive boss ships, Icarus-X still feels a little bit hollow. The soundtrack of generic techno beats doesn’t help matters at all, and there’s no common thread to tie the stages together. A scrap of a story might help, but the game lacks even that. The landscapes for each stage are attractive, but they give no sense of discernible location, and one does not necessarily lead into the next. As an end result, the game feels like a loose amalgam of disparate levels and enemy ships, each having no connection to the others and the fight being waged for ambiguous reasons. You’re doing it for the high scores, I guess. But when you’re ranked so low that you can’t even find yourself on the leaderboards, and harbor no delusions or ambitions about cracking the top 100, who really gives a damn about leaderboards? Hey Game, you’d better find another bone to throw. You’re losing me.

No Local Scoreboards: Once again, I harbor no grand delusions of cracking the top 100 on the global boards. So how about keeping track of just my local scores, just so that I can continually attempt to best myself?

Icarus-X ranks among the better quality vertical shooters on the app store, though it’s not my favorite. For me, the game falls a bit flat in not having a great deal of personality, and in its emphasis on global high scores (which leaves the casual player kind of out in the cold). A little more variety in opposition wouldn’t be a bad thing either. The boss fights can be pretty epic, though, and the game is well-made, with great attention paid to details and accessibility features. The developer has said that the next big update is still being designed, but may include a major alternative way of playing, perhaps with power-ups, and completely reworked background graphics.

Icarus-X is developed by The Quadsphere, and sells for $1.99. Reviewed at version 1.0.1 on an iPhone 3G.

Earth Is Gone Review: Repetitive, but with potential

When it comes to dual-stick space shooters, two games stand above the rest: Isotope and Meteor Blitz. Isotope for its labyrinthine stages, enemy variety, and nuanced ship selection; Meteor Blitz for its polish, tack-sharp controls and stunning visuals.

Earth Is Gone, by NubsterSoft, is a new kid on the block. And while it doesn’t quite live up to either of the above titles, it manages to elbow its way through the slush and to stand out in a crowded genre.

In most ways, Earth Is Gone adhere’s to the conventions of its genre. Two input areas at the lower left and right allow you to move and shoot in any direction, while three buttons across the bottom of the screen allow you to drop a bomb, set of an EMP blast to paralyze foes, and repair your ship. Once used, these abilities must recharge before they can be used again.

Presently, the game supports single-player play and a Survival mode, though the selection screen would seem to indicate that new modes may be introduced in future updates. The object of the game is simply to survive for as long as possible against waves of attackers, each wave more challenging than the last. At the end of each wave, a massive boss ship appears and must be defeated to advance.

Likes:

Presentation: Earth Is Gone is polished and attractive. Ships are nicely designed, and the game makes good use of color. Parallax scrolling effects give two-dimensional space a feeling of depth. The sound and music provide good accompaniment to the action.

Controls: The game’s controls are very tight, and movement is smooth. The player ship is responsive and easy to maneuver.

Power-ups & Abilities: At any time, your ship can drop a time-bomb, paralyze foes with an EMP blast or repair damage. During the course of play, you can also pick up a powerful spread shot, a concentrated laser beam, shields and wingmen who will attack alongside you.

Dislikes:

Repetitive: There are only five ships in Earth Is Gone. The player can choose to play as any one of the five, and can also select the color of the ships thruster discharge. The same ships appear as the only enemies in the game, and boss ships are exactly the same, only much larger. Bosses mix up their attacks a little, but ships mostly behave the same regardless of their appearance. The game’s challenge comes not in the variety of opposition, but only in their increasing numbers with each wave. Other than ships, there are asteroids to blast and not much else going on.

Broken down and analyzed, Earth Is Gone is a fairly standard dual-stick space shooter. It’s not as fast paced as Geometry Wars, as slick as Meteor Blitz, or as diverse or deep as Isotope. But it’s an attractive title with solid controls and room to grow. It nails the basics in ways that many similar games fail to grasp, and it remains now to see in what other directions the developers might take the game. If updates come and bring with them additional play modes, social network integration, and more enemy and stage variety, I could see this game becoming very shiny indeed. As it stands, it’s a good start, but feels a little short on content, as if unfinished. The asking price is a bit high for what’s currently on offer, but the lite version is definitely worth some hands-on time.

EDIT: The developer has informed me that more updates are planned. They intend to add new single-player modes, such as a boss run mode a mode where you must protect targets from incoming asteroids. They also plan to add new ships and bosses to the game, and more backgrounds. Once the single-player mode has been adequately beefed up and polished, they say they’d like to add multiplayer support.

Earth Is Gone is developed by NubsterSoft and sells for $2.99; a free lite version is also available. Reviewed at version 1.2 on an iPhone 3G.

Roswell Fighter Review: A Stylish, Challenging Shooter

Roswell Fighter, by Gamelab Innovation Center, is a stylish, hardcore arcade shoot’em up with a retro 1950’s vibe. In ways, the game hearkens back to old-school classics like 1942 and 1943: The Battle of Midway. As one might suppose from the title, though, the game draws more heavily upon War of the Worlds than on World War II. Aliens are invading the Earth, and it’s up to you to stop them.

In the game, players take on the role of a nameless female fighter pilot. She’s hot, and will occasionally make quips during game play, usually when you die. Otherwise, there’s no characterization to speak of. Preceding each level, a load screen will briefly lay down the story and set the scene, giving you a sense of location for the upcoming battle, but mostly amounting to “OMG! Aliens! Kill’em!” Fortunately, arcade shooters don’t require a great deal of narrative to be enjoyed.

Where Roswell Fighter really shines is in its presentation and game play. The pixel-drawn graphics look spectacular. Enemy fighters, turrets and other hazards are distinct and nicely designed; the stage backdrops are also quite excellent, the landscapes rolling by beneath your plane as you do battle. A lot of effort has clearly been put into the game’s visuals. The soundtrack is comprised of 1950’s era rock’n roll, lending the game a distinct sense of character and complementing the other elements of the presentation.

As in most arcade shooters, players pilot their fighter through each stage against overwhelming opposition, dodging enemies and enemy fire, maneuvering to avoid obstacles, fighting both mobile air units and stationary ground targets, collecting power-ups and accumulating points. Players may choose either tilt or touch controls, with the touch controls being the superior of the two options. Roswell Fighter occasionally mixes things up by throwing in touch-based challenges. In the first stage, for example, a large UFO swoops into view with two touch-points highlighted; players must quickly taps these spots to bring down the craft. Similar events take place throughout the game’s eleven stages, becoming more challenging as the game progresses.

Difficulty ramps up swiftly in Roswell Fighter even on the easiest difficulty level, so lightweights need not apply. There’s always a lot happening on-screen, with enemies, bullets and obstacles filling the sky. In a way it’s nice to see that, after decades of Earth attacks, video game aliens have finally learned how to mount a successful invasion. The alien forces are extremely formidable. On the other hand, it really sucks for Earth.

Likes:

Visual Presentation: Roswell Fighter earns high marks for visuals. The pixel graphics are fantastic throughout the game. Enemies are distinct and ever every changing, the landscapes varied and attractive, and the set-pieces and bosses fill the touch-screen with impressive bulk. The stages are strewn with perils such as massive UFOs and drilling machines, immense gun turrets, falling meteors and more.

Audio: The 1950’s inspired rock’n roll helps the game to stand out from the pack of shooters on the app store, and lends unique atmosphere to Roswell Fighter. A much appreciated departure from the norm.

Enemies: Few iPhone games are able to boast such variety of opposition as Roswell Fighter. There are more than 40 types of enemies, each with their own attack and movement patterns. The game is constantly throwing new things at you, so that every stage feels fresh and new. The creators obviously understand that the best way to avoid monotony is simply not to be monotonous.

Bosses: Seven huge bosses await, and are both impressive and challenging. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say the designs are very cool, and the bosses are worth the effort it takes to reach them.

Dislikes:

Difficulty: In Roswell Fighter the action is fast and frantic, and very challenging. In fact, you’d better get used to dying, because Roswell Fighter is H-A-R-D. There are three difficulty levels, represented by icons on the stage selection screen: green, orange and a red skull-head. The game doesn’t give them text labels, but I would identify the difficulty levels as Hard, Extremely Hard and Friggin’ Impossible. That’s right, kids; even on the easiest difficult setting, the game will trounce you. While I’m all for a good challenge, Roswell Fighter’s punishing difficulty may make it inaccessible to more casual gamers.

Performance: Throughout the game, my iPhone 3G suffered performance hits when the screen become crowded with enemies. It wasn’t enough to break the game, but it was definitely a nuisance. Gamers on older devices should definitely take the lite version for a test drive before committing to buy the full game, if only to ensure that it runs tolerably well for you.

Roswell Fighter offers a unique interpretation of the classic arcade shooter, with several twists, lots of atmosphere, a ton of impressive content, a bit of touch-screen flare, and a heaping spoonful of the hard stuff. Those gamers willing to endure its punishing difficulty will find a gem in Roswell Fighter, and their $0.99 well spent.

At the same time, the game’s difficulty is also its downfall, as it renders the game inaccessible to casual gamers and difficult to widely recommend. Those looking for challenge should step right up, while more tender gamers ought to make a beeline for the lite version. Like a steaming cup of tea, it’s better to test the water temperature before gulping it down. I’d like to rate Roswell Fighter a Buy, but the difficulty being what it is and serving the larger audience, my gut advises it’s Worth a Look.

Roswell Figher ( $0.99 / free ) is developed by Gamelab Innovation Center. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G at version 1.2.

‘Galaxy on Fire 2’ Officially Announced for iPad and iPhone

Saddle up your bags and let’s take a trip to space!  A new space shooter is about to enter the realms of the App Store, this time a sequel to an already existing space explorer on the App Store.  This space shooter has a name like most games, and Fishlabs has currently named it Galaxy On Fire 2 (name isn’t official).

We reported of the rumor such a long, long time ago, and I’m glad that rumor came out to be true.  Galaxy on Fire 2 isn’t exactly close to release though, as stated in the blog post, it will take some time for Galaxy on Fire 2 to be completed.  It also sounds like they are planning to add a lot more things compared to Galaxy on Fire, and just reading the little Q&A leaves me a bit jumpy inside.

Currently, we are working on 3D models of ships, weapons, asteroids, as well as various hangar scenes and the bar where you get new missions. At the same time, Marc Nagel, our art director, is making 2D concepts for new ship models. Then I try to bring it all together. Next, Marc and others will help me with that and deal primarily with the shader, so that everything looks right. And, of course, we mustn’t forget the sound. We’re still looking at a lot of work.

Well that’s it for now.  They’ve included two screenshots in their blog post, we’ll keep you posted.

Black Space Review: A Competant, but Lackluster 3D Space Shooter

In the realm of 3D space shooters, Galaxy On Fire and Star Pagga have long been the app store’s standard bearers. Galaxy On Fire offers an expansive, free-roaming universe, a rich character-driven narrative, lots of ship customization, a system of trade and more. Lacking so many RPG elements, Star Pagga is a streamlined space shooter focused on action, with tight controls and interface, customizable ships and a robust multiplayer mode. Black Space, a new 3D space shooter from Xanist Software, does little to alter the status quo.

Black Space is a straight-up shooter, without RPG elements of any kind. As an Alliance pilot, you fight against the evil Terran Hegemony in 14 missions of progressively increasing difficulty.

Four ships are available to the player, rated in speed, armor and shields, and with a varying number of hardpoints for weaponry. Speed ratings amongst the four are similar enough to be negligible, while the Raptor and Aeon are vastly inferior in armor, shields and payload. Meanwhile, both the Phoenix and Wraith are nearly maxed out in all areas, and each have four hardpoints, making them nearly identical. Xanist seems to have missed the point in offering a selection, as the player never really needs to make a trade-off in selecting one ship over another.

One of four different weapon types may be assigned to each hardpoint: minigun, laser, plasma or particle. Like weapons fire together, so you cannot simultaneously fire a laser and minigun; you must cycle between them. The minigun has the best rate of fire, while the others are relatively slow, and so it’s all I ever used. Mounting four miniguns drained a lot of power, but inflicted plenty of damage, and I found that my weapons usually recharged enough between salvos that the consumption rate wasn’t a bother. More conservative players might mount two miniguns to keep power consumption to a minimum.

The flow of the game never really changes from mission to mission. You leave the hangar, fly to a nav point and battle enemy fighters. You then proceed to the next nav point and battle more fighters. Repeat this process until the mission ends. There’s an Auto button that allows you to skip the downtime between nav points, allowing you to jump into the thick of the action.

Likes:

Ship Designs: The ships, when you’re close enough to see them, are pretty cool looking.

Music: Black Space kicks out some good tunes while you play. The electronic soundtrack is energetic and cool.

Dislikes:

HUD: Put nicely, the heads-up-display is somewhat lacking in elegance. Put not nicely, the interface is frakkin’ ugly. Rendered in hard shades of blue, green and red, the game’s buttons, indicators and readouts make me feel like I’m playing a DOS game on an EGA monitor. And for all the kids too young to have ever seen an EGA monitor, it was a 16-color display that was at one time state-of-the-art, but never managed to not be ugly.

Sound Effects: There’s no sense of distance applied to sound effects. One of your wing-men firing on an enemy two klicks away is equally loud as the wing-man beside you, firing on your same target. Not such a big deal in the heat of battle, but when you’re flying in a straight line trying to close several kilometers to engage your next target, that two minutes of constant laser fire in your ear while you traverse the distance gets pretty annoying.

Repetitive / Lacking Difficulty: Three missions in, seeing nothing but the butt-end of enemy fighters, I was beginning to wonder whether the enemies would ever shoot back. When they finally did start shooting at me, I still didn’t find the game very difficult. The stages didn’t seem to become more difficult, so much as they just seemed to get longer. Hegemony ships continued to attack in small groups; there were just more groups to kill before the mission would end.

Black Space is exactly what you’d expect a 3D space shooter to be, and nothing more. For the most part, it plays by the numbers and amounts to a competent space shooter, but never excels at anything. It gives you a selection of ships and weapons, but they all feel the same in the end. There are fourteen missions adding up to several hours of gameplay, but they’re repetitive and all feel the same. To be honest, by the time I made it halfway through the game, I was too bored with it to continue.

Ultimately, Black Space is a fair title, but not up to snuff with either Galaxy On Fire or Star Pagga. If you’ve already completed those titles and you’re looking for something new, Black Space may be worth your time.

Black Space is developed by Xanist Software and currently available at an introductory price of $1.99. Reviewed at version 1.1 on an iPhone 3G.