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iOS Shooter Index

All the shmups, all the time

by Burkhart von Klitzing

Codename Cobra: Desert Storm Deluxe - iOS (2011)

Infiworks is back for more chopper action, or "chopter" as they call it themselves. Unlike the original Cobra Strike, this time around the action is less focused on pure survival and score hunting, but more on the completion of 16 rather easy stages spread over 4 distinct regions such as deserts and forests complete with a boss fight at the end of every fourth stage.

As long as you forego the optional motion controls and instead opt for the relative touch controls, you should be able to stay in control at all times and blast your way through the repetitive landscapes with ease. While the enemy design offers no big surprises, the choppers, tanks and footmen don't look too bad by Infiworks' standards, but none of them ever become truly challenging. Picking up the floating crates they leave behind ensures your ever growing arsenal of front-mounted machine gun, diagonally-firing lasers and dropped bombs will be more than sufficient to tear any opposition apart, including the nicely designed, yet overly easy bosses.

There isn't a whole lot to say about Codename Cobra: Desert Storm and it's hardly what you'd call a good game, since it does offer all the basic ingredients of a shooter, but sticks too close to the recipe, forgetting to season it, resulting in a pretty bland affair. It's playable by all means and anyone willing to play it can just download the standard version, lacking the "Deluxe" suffix, while adding an ad bar at the top of the screen, obscuring your view on what's behind, instead of simply reducing the gameplay area. For some reason, this lite version is more than double the size of the Deluxe version (17.2 MB as opposed to 8.5 MB).

Codename Cobra: Desert Storm Deluxe

Codename Cobra: Desert Storm Deluxe


Codename Cobra Classic DX - iOS (2011)

Codename Cobra Classic hit the App Store about a month after Codename Cobra: Desert Storm and it is quite a puzzling release. There is nothing truly "classic" about it and it doesn't really harken back to any earlier Infiworks release. What it does, is take the previous game and mess with it. Apart from a useless day-and-night cycle all of its changes are for the worse and, as mentioned before, simply puzzling.

For one thing, upgrade crates aren't dropped by downed enemies anymore, but they rain from the skies at certain points in the stages, which happens entirely too rarely, forcing you to cope with a measly pea-shooter half the time. This doesn't raise the dificulty as much as it makes hitting enemies plain annoying. Possibly in another attempt to make the game more challenging, enemy choppers frequently appear in the upper left, leaving you extremely little time to react, so you simply stay in the lower left, thus solving the problem, but also limiting your playfield. The biggest offender, however, is the dramatically increase in stage length. Every single mission now takes an eternity to finish and in combination with the reduced enemy variety, this renders it unlikely for just abaout anybody to want to sit through more than one or two stages.

Codename Cobra Classic DX


Orion Fighter - iOS (2011)

Orion Fighter has been partially inspired by Gradius, employing basically the exact same powerup system. Occasionally enemies drop capsules that move a marker along a bar at the top of the screen (Gradius has it at the bottom. Ah, the sweet scent of innovation.), with each position of said marker representing an upgrade you can trigger at any time. The marker moves back to the beginning, so grabbing a shield or a satellite afterwards requires more capsules again. You'll also collect cash during the eight missions, used for unlocking alternative setups for the bar, potentially replacing a simple rapid shot with a laser beam, or a single option with three of them, for example.

The similarities with Konami's classic already come to a close with these mechanics, though. The stages aren't so much designed as memorable trips through varied landscapes and enemy formations, encouraging memorization, as they rather feel like somewhat haphazard or even random enemy placement, constantly repeating the same foes and lacking anything truly resembling level design. If someone was gonna tell you that the game is randomly constructed on the fly, you'd believe him. Only later stages at least introduce hazards such as flames suddenly striking up from below, or (extremely rare) boulders blocking your path for a second.

The action is fairly competent, which the surprisingly responsive virtual stick controls can also be credited for, but it never goes beyond being “fairly competent- While some background objects are surprisingly pretty (the columns in stage 3), the overall blandness of the stages and the repetition of enemies put a serious damper on this. Bosses for example are just enlarged standard foes, and even the first stage's small floating rocks with a cannon attached to them make a return in stage 3 as fixed stage hazards with the rock simply being larger than before. Another issue is the general lack of difficulty. Enemies hardly attack, they just fly along. Bosses use a single attack, usually granting safe spots from where they can easily be torn apart. You are even given a comfortable health bar. Should you still manage to die at any point, the complete loss of all upgrades isn't the real issue, the complete lack of checkpoints is. Having to retread an entire level that already felt like it was constantly repeating anyways is the very definition of a chore. Stay alive, though, and beating the game is reasonably fun at least once.

For a non-free game, Orion Fighter is terribly ridden by bugs and other technical shortcomings. The loading times during menus are inexplicable for how basic they are. Sometimes buttons in the menus even won't react anymore. At one point when I was purchasing a new upgrade, I ended up with my cash mysteriously maxed out, but still I was unable to buy anything else. Not even upgrades cheap enough for me to buy with how much cash I should really have had at that time. Sometimes you get to take your upgrades with you into the next stage, sometimes you're fully downgraded. The most insane bug I encountered, however, was when my ship suddenly started spinning around as soon as the boss of stage 2 appeared, leaving me little choice but to let myself get killed and start the entire stage from scratch.

Orion Fighter

Orion Fighter

Orion Fighter


Chopper Desert Storm - iOS (2011)

Anybody longing for more horizontally scrolling chopper action made in China akin to Cobra Strike would be best advised not to give Chopper Desert Storm a shot. Sure, it's got a helicopter, it's been developed in China and it's a hori shooter, but even compared to the average Cobra Strike its gameplay and controls completely fall apart. And maybe it's just me, but I feel slightly uncomfortable with a game taking place in the (first) Iraq War, detailing the amount of weapons used and destruction dealt not during your gaming time, but during the real conflict.

On your constant way to the right you have to deal with guarded lookouts, tanks, ships, other choppers, etc, theoretically making you appreciate your varied arsenal consisting of four different weapons. The machine gun fires automatically and is usually enough to take down enemy choppers. Bombs are dropped onto tanks and jeeps, while standard missiles and three-way missiles tear apart whatever you aim them at. Unfortunately, the explosive weapon selection mechanic is overly finicky, requiring you to tap a small icon on the left. What's more, explosives are used by tapping on your chopper, which leads to a cornucopia of issues. Not only is it too difficult to reliably activate your most powerful weapons this way, it also makes the simple act of moving more annoying than it has any right to be, because you'll often end up shooting missiles when you wanted to move and vice versa. You're always more concerned about where to place your finger than about how to cope with hazards or ammo crates coming your way.

Even if these control issues could be solved, the remaining shortcomings were still enough to keep Chopper Desert Storm down. To put it bluntly, the game is just boring. Scrolling is too slow, enemies are scarce and quickly eliminated and some places are just empty deserts of sand and boredom. The cheap graphics, the equally cheap electro-industrial and the lack of sound effects further solidify the bad overall impression...as does the iTunes description mistaking your chopper for a "warplane" and stressing your need to deliver "death to enemies!!" in this Iraq War with two exclamation marks. Stay classy, FX Studio, stay classy.

Chopper Desert Storm

Chopper Desert Storm


Blast Fighter - iOS (2011)

Here we go again, Infiworks. Like with some of their previous attempts, the busy Chinese developers once again deliver a thoroughly amateurish shooter that -while getting some of the basics right -still fails on numerous levels.

This time you are piloting a helicopter through six areas split up into a total of 72 stages referred to “waves- The graphics are decent enough, the touch controls also work nicely, quantity seems about right and a shop is offering various additional crafts, weapon upgrades, items and limited secondary weapons in exchange for coins left behind by defeated enemy jets and choppers.

Too bad, though, that all twelve waves of a world continuously repeat the same assets, lacking any diversity in backgrounds, enemies or gameplay in general. The worst part about Blast Fighter however is the in-app purchase section. As of this writing, the game is free upon downloading, but Infiworks make up for this by slowing down coin collecting to a crawl, allowing for exchanging real cash into game currency. Without the use of this, it takes an eternity just to buy the first (out of 11) weapon upgrades, which would already be frustrating in itself, but is further worsened by overly sturdy enemies, sustaining too many hits from your standard weapon and thus leading to the occasional unavoidable hit. Blast Fighter is extremely slow and tedious unless you decide to dump any money into it, which is kind of sad to see, as the basic way the game feels is among Infiworks' better titles.

Blast Fighter


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iOS Shooter Index

All the shmups, all the time

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