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iOS Shooter Index

All the shmups, all the time

by Burkhart von Klitzing

Astro Bang / Astro Bang HD - iOS (2011)

Astro Bang is the poor man's Meteor Blitz, lacking both the scope and polish of the "original". Your ship is confined to a planet's atmosphere, moving freely around earth and five other planets for a total of 18 stages, shooting asteroids and alien ships that descend from outer space. So far, so tried and true, but Astro Bang suffers from numerous problems, so stupid you wouldn't believe them to be true. Leaving out Meteor Blitz' fire and ice weapons is a matter of taste, as the more arcady, straight-forward approach can be appreciated just as much as the more sophisticated approach of MB. But shrinking down the planets in size as much as here, simply can't be tolerated, as it regularly leads to the playing field being littered with hazards.

This probably wouldn't be too bad, if the controls were up to the task, which they simply aren't. Unlike just about any other dual-stick shooter ever made, your ship can't turn on a dime here, instead turning around in a circle similar to a car. Circling around items, unable to pick them up, or dodging enemies only to find yourself steering straight into an asteroid thanks to the playing field being too small and the controls being finicky make this one of the worst dual-stick shooters found on the App Store. Adding insult to injury, the official description on iTunes refers to it as "one of the best iPhone games".

It's only sad for the neat upgrade system, that hits the same sweet spots RPGs usually do, as your ship's speed, shields and rate of fire are permanently being upgraded with pickups occasionally spawning somewhere in the levels. Seeing your craft grow in strength could add a great boost to motivation, if only a bit more thought would have gone into the overall development process. Doubling the size of the planets and adjusting the spaceship's physics to the genre standards should in fact be enough to turn this into a decently enjoyable experience, but alas, this will likely not happen any time soon.

Around the time of the app's launch in October 2011, the developer also released an HD version, but you can't honestly tell the difference between the two. Both look absolutely the same and even the title screen doesn't refer to it as an HD version.

Astro Bang

Occurro! - iOS (2009)

A weird name for a remarkably unremarkable game. Occurro takes Geometry Wars and makes no attempt at doing anything with it. Plus, the presentation is comparatively bland, the controls aren't as tight as in Geometry Wars (triggering bombs is too easily done, as is gaining speed), there is no gameplay mode besides standard survival against increasingly difficult waves, enemies lack truly distinctive behaviors, and enemies can spawn right next to you, creating unfair situations.

The only minor innovation isn't exactly a welcome one: Firing your weapon drains an energy meter, that needs to replenish automatically if depleted, leaving you defenseless. It's not all that bad, actually, as it's at least playable if you get used to the fiddly left stick used for steering, and grabbing score multipliers and weapon upgrades feels quite rewarding... until you suffer from the next cheap hit by an enemy spawning near your position. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for downloading Occurro with so many games out there doing the exact same thing, only ten times better in every regard.


geoFighter: Light Wars - iOS (2009)

geoFighter - Light Wars is basically Geometry Wars with powerups and spyware. The action seems to suit the iPhone a bit better than Geometry Wars in fact, thanks to everything being zoomed out some more and the powerup system helps keep things fresh for a while. Destroyed triangles, rectangles and the cliched likes sometimes leave behind hardly distinguishable white circles (yay, circles) that might yield life restocks, bullet-time or even new weapons, of which four in total exist. The standard pea shooter, the grenade launcher, the homing missiles and the shotgun-esque scatter gun can be switched between at any given moment after having picked them up and they can even be upgraded two times each. Unfortunately your ship is fully equipped within mere minutes and from then on it is far too easy to wreak havoc among enemies all while picking up restocks for your bullet time and shield.

The game is pretty stingy in terms of variety. Unlike other contemporary attempts in the dual-stick shooter hype, there are only two "different" gameplay modes. Calling them "different" is actually a far-fetching term as both are basically just endless modes in the same rectangular arena devoid of any obstacles. Wave mode has enemies only spawning once you've destroyed an entire batch of them, while survival mode will constantly release new enemies, though there is hardly a difference to be seen when actually playing them. Another downer that really is a pity considering the overall better feel compared to the iPhone Geometry Wars is the way enemies turn up on the playing field, as they often spawn right next to you, possibly exactly where you are currently heading for, or even right at your position, making for lots of cheap hits, which doesn't really balance the otherwise low difficulty as much as it simply annoys the living crap out of the player.

As mentioned before, the game also contains spyware. In the beginning, geoFighter had to be purchased, but later it became freeware, though obviously with a hook: The developer spokko (a lovechild of Spock and Chrono Trigger's Spekkio perhaps?) is known for implementing Pinchmedia spyware into most, if not all of its games, which is why the majority of them are either free or at least are temporarily free on a regular basis. So downloading happens at your own risk and even though Pinchmedia states to quickly assemble an overview of all the information they get from all the various devices, instead of saving single individuals' information, geoFighter probably isn't even worth considering all the hassle.

geoFighter: Light Wars

Arodius - iOS (2010)

One of the worst things to do in the gaming industry nowadays? Pulling of a Konami. When Konami announced their first inhouse developed shooter after roughly a decade and even called it Otomedius, a lot of people were excited for another charming, fun, over the top ride in the vein of Parodius. Until the game finally hit Japanese arcades and turned out to be nothing more than a run of the mill shooter with boring level and character designs, handing in the quirky humor of better days in favor of Moe. Now imagine seeing a game on the App Store called Arodius, which even happens to be a shooter. Now that clearly can't be a coincidence. As it turns out, Arodius can only dream of at least reaching mediocrity and it ups the ante in terms of Moe even more, bearing no signs of humor whatsoever.

The game consists of 30 stages spread over 5 not quite amazing locations in the world such as China, a European garden, the Egyptian desert and a drab rock scenery. Their common denominator is not having any effect on the gameplay as they're all mere tapestry. No level specific obstacles, physics, weapons or anything. The enemies at least kind of try to fit in with the scenery, but most of them seem quite akward at first with grim-looking disks being one of the most recognizable appearances. Some enemies require a lot of imagination, with some of them looking like Obscure's vagina monsters or like floating rulers and compasses at first despite probably being intended to be epaulettes and Pharao insignias. It all comes together in an all too literal way when facing off against a boss as all former enemy types of that region show off their love for Transformers and their need for a girl by piling up into a fearsome creature that turns out to be a painfully amateurishly drawn Manga-chick complete with wobbling breasts, seemingly sprung out of some middleschool boy's head, seriously in need of a girlfriend...or at least a good internet connection. When playing on anything lower than the highest difficulty setting out of four, however, bosses don't lose their clothes and it stays a little more suitable for work.

Gameplay revolves around shooting waves of mostly unanimated enemies to trigger the next wave until the last wave of a stage either boasts that world's boss or bigger renditions of the standard enemies. As if this wouldn't already sound boring enough, enemies don't fight back. They all drop from the sky in what looked better on the SNES in all its Mode 7 glory and immediately rush in on you, albeit usually not really that fast. They never shoot and there are no different enemy behaviours to be found. So all you have to do is fly away from the horde with your half-naked angel all while constantly shooting at anything that follows you. To make matters worse the standard weapon is extremely slow and weak, hence each level is not only extremely easy, but it also starts out extremely slow, turning your own desire to sleep into your worst enemy until you finally pick up some powerups in the second or third wave. With these new weapons most enemies can be disposed of pretty quickly, except for the bigger ones. Defeating enemies also fills up your smart bomb meter which can trigger a closeup of the protagonist and also a useful explosion, I suppose. Even the controls offend every now and then. When using both sticks (which really shouldn't be that uncommon in a dual-stick shooter, especially one that has dual-stick shooter in its name) they usually get stuck in their position. If you let go of the stick that's responsible for moving for example, you still continue to move until you hit the switch again, this time in its center.

In summary we have an extremely easy, derivative shooter that's easily one of the most boring dual-stick shooters ever created, boasting soulless backgrounds and enemy designs. Hence developer Mobile Force came up with the tried and true idea of stripping the protagonist of most of her garments and slapping her appearance onto as many spaces as possible. If that doesn't suffice then there is still the all-female boss cast as well as the gallery section where finally some animations can be seen, although mostly used for lewd depictions of more chicks.

In more than one strange move Mobile Force put up two demo versions of Arodius on the App Store, one entitled lite version and one free version. Both of these used to be the standard version of the game, each costing a whoppin' 10 bucks before they were turned into a demo, being replaced by a new full-release version. While this seems like a fishy way of attracting people by appearing on various free app trackers, it gets even more confusing: The lite and the free versions of Arodius both have been updated to contain everything the allegedly "full" version does. So basically there are three versions of Arodius available, with two being virtually identical and free and the third one setting you back $2 only not to see a small "buy the full version" reminder every now and then. This reminder isn't even as offensive as in other games as it doesn't force you to look at it for ten seconds before being able to move on. The full version only makes sense as a way of donating money to the developers, although it's highly doubtable anybody would want to make use of that.





Shape Shooter - iOS (2011)

Shape Shooter is an absolute disgrace to Geometry Wars. It "borrows" the original's background, the player ship and three kinds of enemies and drops them all into a painfully small playing field. Dodging thus becomes nearly impossible. While this will cause your game to end within less than a minute, you're never going to miss out on anything, since the game offers no variety at all. All three enemy types are already present from the beginning, and they even all act the same. Gone are the diverse enemy behaviors and special abilities. You'd be best-advised not to expect any powerups, scripted enemy waves or even smart bombs. It's just you, two virtual sticks that cover half the battlefield, and the same foes that immediately respawn upon their demise, guaranteeing you will never experience even the slightest change in enemy composition.

To make matters worse, there is no music playing at all, the visuals feel sterile due to a lack of effects, and the background doesn't react to your actions. It just constantly pulsates, which not only looks awfully cheap, it also distracts from the shooting. I suppose that by now nobody would expect the controls to fare any better than the other parts already falling apart. The sticks are cumbersome to use and easy to miss, and your ship starts bouncing around as if amidst an epileptic shock when touching the walls. In some cases it even manages to fly straight through, reappearing on the other end of the screen, without this being a feature, but simply a glitch that can't be easily reproduced. Shape Shooter is nothing short of a horrible abomination and should be avoided at all costs. Just in case this hasn't become clear enough by now.

Shape Shooter

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iOS Shooter Index

All the shmups, all the time

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