Shoot-em-ups. They’ve grown in popularity quite a bit since the introduction of the AppStore and iDevice. The touch controls make pin-point accuracy and quick movements that would otherwise be impossible as easy as dragging your thumb across a 3.5 inch glass screen. However, the 3D, 3rd Person/On-Rails shooter genre has been basically left out of this Shmup Revolution, with only a couple of titles available for the platform; Wizard Ops, Denizen, Dark Break, ExZeus, TheMars, Battle 3D 2: Iron Punch, and the more open-world type game, Battle 3D: Robots Sky. These titles have provided iOS gamers with countless Space Harrier type entertainment. But sadly, aside from these titles, there’s not others for fans of the genre to sink their teeth into. One-man, Australia-based Justin Hogie obviously knows this, but has still taken a wild chance with his first original iOS title, and created another game we can all add to that extremely short list; Running With Ninjas.
Running With Ninjas is an Endless 3rd Person On-Rails Shooter that puts you in control of a ninja running through the jungle and mountains while being attacked by, and attacking, other ninjas who are bound and determined to take you out. RWN contains one gameplay mode which has you defeating as many ninjas as you can before your health completely runs out. When you start out, you’ll only see 2 different enemies; Red and Green. Red enemies will throw Shurikens straight forward and once defeated, add to your special meter; displayed as writing under your health bar. Green enemies do not attack you, instead, once defeated, they will slightly refill your health bar. As you progress through the world, you’ll soon realize that these are not the only types of enemies. Bosses with strange turtle like shields on their backs, purple enemies that throw Shurikens directly at you, yellow enemies that toss bombs and more will all be after your head, and when all of these different types of enemies are on the screen at the same time, things can get a little hairy.
Once you defeat a boss, a scroll appears. These scrolls, once collected, give your ninja special powers, and this is where the special meter comes into play. After you collect a scroll, a special power is unlocked. To use this special power, you’ll need to draw a shape in the middle of the screen. This does take some getting use to, and I still think that buttons up the sides of the screen, or easier swipe gestures, like just swiping left to right, or up and down would have been a better fit, especially since the gestures are a little hard to remember, and can take more than a second or two to pull off, that is, if you can pull it off correctly. Each special power requires a certain amount of power from your special gauge. Once you have enough power, you can draw a certain symbol on the screen, and POW, enemies are in for some trouble.
The controls are fairly simple; you’re given a button for jumping, and a button for throwing your own Shuriken. Moving left and right is controlled by tilting your device. Normally, I don’t think I would have checked out a 3rd Person On-Rails Shooter that was tilt controlled, but the controls in Running With Ninjas fit the game extremely well. Also making it feel even better is the great camera control. When you tilt your device, your character moves, but so does the environment. This makes it a lot easier to focus on the gameplay, and not worry so much about where your character is located in the gameplay area. However, if you’re not comfortable with the tilting environment, you can always turn this option off in the settings menu, making the environment stay level as you tilt. I have experienced some issues with the controls, like an occasionally unresponsive jump button, some jitteriness while moving in the air, sometimes resulting in taking damage when I should have avoided a bomb, and some slight sticking of the character while on the edges of the gameplay area. However, these were all occasional, and not game-breaking by any means.
The graphics are pretty minimal, with very little details in the environments and characters, however, this does help to make the bright enemies stick out like a sore thumb, making it easier to focus on them while running at full speed through the environments. The animations are well done, with nice enemy appearance and death animations, cool looking special powers, and nice running animations also add to the feel and polish of the game.
With only one gameplay mode, and some needed tweaks that could make the gameplay a little smoother, not everyone is going to jump on the Running With Ninjas bandwagon. However, if you’re a fan of the genre, and willing to take a chance on a game that has some very solid core gameplay mechanics, for $0.99, you just might be very surprised. In the near future, Justin Hogie has said that GameCenter leaderboards and achievements, as well as possibly another gameplay mode that would revolve around preset challenges and levels, along with some additions to the enemies, stages, and special power scrolls. Hopefully RWN sells well and gets enough attention that these things can be added, because right now, Running With Ninjas shows an extreme amount of promise, and provides some great endless gameplay.
After the release of Metal Slug 3 by SNK and Dot Emu, a lot of gamers have been hoping for more ports of classic SNK titles. However, I don’t think anyone really expected to see another title so soon. This time around, SNK and Dot Emu have brought the fantastic old-school SHMUP, Blazing Star, to the iOS, and it’s just as faithful a port as Metal Slug 3.
For those of you who have never played the original Blazing Star, it was originally released in Arcades back in 1998, and is the sequel to the other fantastic Arcade shoot-em-up, Pulstar. Blazing Star includes 6 different pilots + ships, all having their own type of shot, and special shots, offering up quite a bit of varied gameplay. The ships with the stronger shot types tend to move slightly slower than the ships with the weaker shots, leaving it up to the player to find the ship which best suits their style of play.
Included in the game are 7 stages, each getting progressively more difficult as you progress. Luckily, just like in Metal Slug 3, you’re given continues, and can also choose to play in Mission Mode, which lets you play from the last level you reached in Arcade Mode, so that you’re able to experience playing all of the 7 stages, as well as practice certain stages after you get use to the gameplay and start to go for high-scores. Also included in the game, same as Metal Slug, is the option to switch from pixilated to smooth graphics, add scan-lines, and choose to play in 4:3 or 16:9 ratio. Also available is the ability to play in 2 player co-op mode via Bluetooth, which, like with Metal Slug, is a fantastic addition.
There are two control schemes, one includes a joystick, and the other offers up 1:1 relative touch controls. You’re able to move the two shot buttons as well as the joystick to anywhere on the screen you like, which is a huge plus, especially when playing on the iPad.
Unfortunately, a lot of players are having problems getting use to the ship speed. The way the game was made, making stronger ships move slower, this means that the ships will not move as fast as you can move your finger across the screen, and because of this, a lot of players have had problems getting comfortable with the gameplay. Also an issue is the joystick. The dead zone that you’re able to touch is fairly small, and results in the ship’s movement being pretty jerky, and hard to control. Another issue some have been having is that in order to fire, you need to constantly tap on the shoot button. Fortunately, SNK and Dot Emu have stated that they are adding an option for ship movement to be sped up, as well as an auto-fire option. But not to worry, for those of you who have come to love the game in the past, and are accustomed to the ship’s movement, and the firing mechanics, the new control set-ups will have a separate leaderboard, leaving the hardcore players boards safe and sound.
Graphically, Blazing Star looks amazing. The animations and 2.5D graphics look incredible on both the iPhone and the iPad, and the music is exactly as it was over 14 years ago; hard-edged, and full of energy. The GameCenter integration definitely adds to the already high replay value that almost all SHMUPs inevitably include, having boards for all 4 difficulty settings, as well as 15 hard to snag achievements.
Being Universal, and priced insanely low at $2.99, Blazing Star is a game that all SHMUP fans need to check out. With it’s slick graphics, awesome gameplay, and fantastic scoring system, it sits along-side the other heavy hitters like Dariusburst and RayStorm, as one of the best non-Cave shoot-em-ups available for the iOS. Hopefully SNK and Dot Emu will keep porting over amazing classics from the past and making them available via the AppStore (here’s hoping for The Last Blade!). Having them available at any time and in our pockets is simply amazing.
Shoot-em-ups are really thriving in the AppStore. But with Cave pretty much having a monopoly on the high-end, extremely polished side of things, it’s hard for others to really compare to the insanely high quality they bring to the table. Fortunately, there are some developers that can compete with this, Taito being one of them. The release of Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, and ports of DariusBurst and RayForce are considered to be some of the best non-Cave shmups available on the iOS, and with good reason. The gameplay, graphics, music and amount of polish are all top-notch. And now they’ve added one more game to the list of ports to hit the AppStore; RayStorm. Originally released for the PSX, SEGA Saturn, and for Arcades, it’s also been ported over to Windows, XBLA and the Playstation Network, it’s now available for your iDevice.
RayStorm is the only Taito Ray-title that’s not connected to the series. Released before RayForce and RayCrisis, what there is of a plot is not connected to the other two in any way. The game takes place between August 4th and 7th, starts on Earth, moves into space, and ends on the planet Secilia. Like RayForce on the iOS, RayStorm contains both an Arcade Mode as well as an iPhone Mode. The two play pretty much exactly the same, but with the iPhone Mode, the enemy placements, game music and color schemes are different, while the difficulty settings have been revised to make the gameplay a little easier.
In the Options Menu, you’re able to set the difficulty for both modes to Very Easy, Easy, Normal and 5 different Hard Difficulties; Hard 1, Hard 2, Hard 3, Hard 4 and Very Hard. You can also change the movement ratio from 1:1 to 1:1.5, 1:2, 1:2.5, ect, up to 1:4, as well as change the button positioning from left to right. From the first time you start up the game, you’ll be able to start from any of the 7 stages in both modes and select between 2 different fighters. Both of these fighters have fairly different ways of playing and scoring; The R-Gray 1 uses a spread shot and can lock on to 8 enemies at once, while the R-Gray 2 uses a condensed laser shot, but can lock onto 16 enemies at once. The Gray1 is better for new-comers to the game/genre, while the Gray2 is built more for experienced players.
Graphically, RayStorm looks great on the small screen, but unfortunately, the game is only built for the iPod and iPhone, and does not contain retina graphics, so playing on the iPad requires 2X mode, and as a result, is pretty pixilated. But for fans of the genre, this shouldn’t really pose a problem, as there are very few HD/Retina shmups available in the AppStore, so it’s not really a deal breaker. The animations for shooting projectiles, movement and explosions are all fantastic, and with the movement of the backgrounds creating a 3D environment, even though some of the background images can look pretty ugly, coupled with the smooth controls, and great music, RayStorm turned out to be an incredibly immersive shooter.
Priced at $8.99, and including GameCenter integration with 4 leaderboards, one for each ship in each mode, along with 31 achievements, chances are, even though it’s one of the better previously released shmups ported over to the iOS, only hardcore fans of the genre will wind up purchasing it. If you’re new to the genre, you might want to check out some of the cheaper titles before diving right in, but for fans of the genre, RayStorm is a great game, and is really only out-done by Cave’s titles. Taito has shown, once again, why they have been around since 1953, are still highly respected, and have a very loyal fan following.
Jeff Minter is sort of a God in the gaming industry. Founder of Llamasoft, he’s been in the business for over 30 years, and has developed numerous games for the Sinclair XZ81, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Atari 400/800, Pocket PC, XBLA, PC, and iDevice. Some classic games you might have heard of; Tempest 2000 – 3000 – X3, Traxx, Sheep in Space, Hover Bovver, Abductor, Trip-a-Tron, Virtual Light Machine and loads more. On the iOS, he’s ported over the classics, Minotron: 2112, Minotaur Rescue, Deflex, Caverns of Minos and Gridrunner. He’s best known for his inclusion of llamas, sheep, camels, oxen, and his psychedelic graphics. But his most recent release, Super Ox Wars, an Ikaruga influenced polarity shoot-em-up, could be considered one of his best iOS releases to date. On the distant planet, Parint, two oxen are revered by the people. With each ox representing a valuable characteristic of the society, each person chooses one ox to guide their spirit. Parint was invaded by the Marcab Empire, who enslaved the people. It’s up to you to save the people, and your planet by using the power of the oxen.
Like most Minter releases, Super Ox Wars is filled with psychedelic graphics and animations, fast moving enemies, a great scoring system, smooth controls and a fantastic challenge. There is only one mode in SOW, but like Gridrunner, you’re able to start from each level that you’ve reached, with your highest score, and lives in-tact.
As you play through each of the 7 levels, you’ll be able to collect either blue/star or red/heart colors and items. In order to go for a high score, you’ll need to decide which color you want to stick with while going through the stages. As you collect more items from one of the two colors, your firepower will increase, as well as defensive powers; Hearts push back enemy projectiles around your ship, while Stars cause your own shots to push back enemy projectiles. As you collect more items of one color, more power-ups and extra lives will drop more often, but once you collect an item of the opposite color, the polarity is automatically shifted.
You’re given 3 different scores at the top of the screen, one for blue, one for red, and one for a combined score. Each of the scores increase depending on your current polarity, so if you’re using blue, your blue score will rise, and if you’re using red, your red score will rise. Both of these are combined together for your total score. Shooting down entire groups of enemies gives you bonuses, and destroying all of the flying enemies in each stage will give you an end of level bonus.
The graphics and animations are typical of Minter’s past releases, but are not as incredibly crazy. You’re able to very clearly make out enemy ships, and background objects, but there is a psychedelic level to the images, with loads of stars or hearts flying out of your ship when your ship is fully powered up, or explodes, and the animations are reminiscent of Gridrunner. The controls, however, are a very tight and smooth relative touch control scheme at a 1:1 ratio. GameCenter is supported, and with 4 separate leader boards, one for each color, one for a pure run (starting on stage 1), and one for your combined score, as well as 10 achievements, it definitely adds to the already high replay value of the game. Priced at $1.99, and being a Universal build, Super Ox Wars is a fantastic, as well as cheap, polarity based shmup. Fans of the genre, and especially fans of Minter titles, should pick this one up. Though not as psychedelic graphically, and only containing one gameplay mode, it’s one of the most challenging Llamasoft games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, will definitely get loads of gameplay out of me and will wind up staying on my device for a long time.
I’ve been a fan of Cave games for about 4 years now, after playing ESPGaluda and ESPGaluda II on a friends PC, and DonPachi on his PSX. Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for any Cave titles I could find. Once they started hitting the AppStore, I knew I would be hooked for life. Now, after 6 iOS releases, 2 HD re-releases, and a whole hell of a lot a bullets, we finally have a BLACK LABEL version on the iOS. Bug Princess 2 (Mushihimesama Futari) Black Label. And I can finally find out what all the fuss is about regarding these Black Label versions of Cave games.
First off, the price. It’s not normally something I worry about too much, the AppStore is filled with dollar bin gems and ports of titles slashed down to less than a quarter of their original or other platform prices. Yes, a dollar here and there adds up, but when you can get between 20 and 60 games for the price of 1 XBOX or PS3 game, it’s very hard to complain. But is getting a different version of a game that’s already released on the iOS for double the price (or for the price of BOTH Mushihimesama AND Mushimesama Futari) of the original really worth it? When it comes to Cave, most fans will say ‘yes’, and in a heartbeat. Especially when the words BLACK LABEL are attached to the title.
Bug Princess 2 Black Label is basically like the original (vanilla) version. You’ve got 3 different gameplay modes, Original, Maniac, and the coveted God Mode. Then there’s the huge list of tweaks that are included in the Black Label version; Background colors have been changed, gems are darker, every mode contains more bullets and they’re faster, God Mode has been added while Ultra Mode has been removed, harsher penalties for bombing including a reduction of 6000 on the gem counter and a zero end game bonus if you finish the game with no bombs and Extends (Extra Lives) are different; 100 and 200 Million for Original Mode, 150 and 250 Million for Maniac Mode and 350 and 700 Million in God Mode.
The biggest changes are that every stage has numerous changes with the enemy and bullet placement and patterns, bullet patterns for the bosses have changed, are faster, and boss fights are harder, shot types are no longer available, instead you have a mix of Normal and Abnormal and a new TLB “Spiritual Larsa” has been added in God Mode if you no-miss (including the Stage 5 Boss Battle).
TLDR: It’s been completely re-done, and feels like a new Cave game.
The main reason Cave fans will probably wind up buying BP2BL is for God Mode. But once you actually get into the game, and see how much has changed, the new Original Mode, new bullet patterns, and new enemy layouts, chances are, you’ll get hooked all over again. The new Original Mode really stands out, as the difficulty at first glance doesn’t seem too impressive, especially when compared to God Mode, but after you get the hang of the scoring system, Original Mode becomes just as entertaining as God Mode. Needing to stay up in the top 1/3 of the screen for most of the game makes the difficulty shoot up, as does figuring out when and where enemies are going to pop out, and which ones give off large quantities of gems, which is how you shoot your score way up. All 3 of the modes have been equaled out, each having their own fantastic mechanics, not one of them being out-shined by the other, and each one offering up endless hours of replayabilty.
Control-wise, BP2BL is like any other Cave title. Relative touch controls with a 1:1 ratio. They’re some of the tightest controls you can have in a shmup, which is very important when it comes to bullet hell titles. Considering there’s literally thousands of bullets flying at you, being able to weave and dodge through them all is what it’s all about, and the developers over at Cave Mobile have done an outstanding job making sure that it’s as smooth and fluid as it can be.
With BP2BL being Universal, the graphics are a bit better than DeathSmiles and DoDonPachi Blissful Death, but not quite as impressive as the HD versions of ESPGaluda II or DDPR, which is kind of disappointing. Especially with BP2BL having an XBOX 360 version (Mushihimesama Futari Black Label), I was hoping that the graphics would be a little more clearer, but the menus, and dead zone around the gameplay area look super crisp and sharp.
Bug Princess 2 Black Label is basically a Cave title that will only appeal to hardcore Cave fans. With so many gamers complaining about the price tags of their previous releases, I doubt many of them would be interested in grabbing a $14 suped-up version of a game that they’ve already bought. But for extreme fans of the Bullet Hell genre, knowing that Mushihimesama Futari Black Label is one of the best, if not the best, Bullet Hell title you can expect to experience, and with copies of the game on the XBOX selling between $40 and $120, the price-tag isn’t really a deterrent. There are IAPs, but they’re set up like they are in DoDonPachi Blissful Death, all basically for cheating, and making the game easier (less fun). There is a Boss Mode, which takes you through the bosses of either BP1 or BP2, but you’re given 1 free play a day, so it’s not a required extra purcahse if you want to check it out, only if you want to play it more than once a day, which you might after you’ve gotten your fill of the main game. But by then, another $6.99 for the mode, and endless hours of entertainment will probably seem like a decent deal.
Here’s hoping BP2BL sells well, and that it pushes Cave to port over more of their Black Label titles; ESPGaluda II Black Label, DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu + Daioujou (Blissful Death) Black Label… I’d jump through hoops (actually, go to more severe extremes which I probably shouldn’t say) to have them all available in the AppStore.
Every time a new shmup hits the AppStore, I get extremely excited, especially when it’s from a well known developer. Iskandar, developer of Bit-1, Brutal Fantasy, Cut Him Up, and the ever popular shmup, Buster Red, has just released a follow-up to Buster Red called Buster Spirits. This time around, Iskandar has created a shmup more directed towards fans of the genre than another casual shooter.
The first thing that stands out about Buster Spirits are the new graphics. Even though they’re retro-inspired, and look old-school, they’re a huge change from Buster Red, which had a more cartoony look to it. But aside from the graphics, like most sequels, Buster Spirits is a lot like it’s predecessor. The game is level based, containing 20 separate stages spread across 4 different worlds, and having 4 huge boss battles. There are also tons of enemies with randomized power-up drops, but in Buster Spirits, the enemies also drop coins, which you’ll need to collect to build up your score.
Now, unlike Buster Red, Buster Spirits contains a new scoring mechanic which definitely adds to the hardcore feeling of the game. Grazing. Just mentioning the word gets shmup fans charged up. Buster Spirits gives you bonus firepower for grazing bullets and enemies, which can result in clearing out screens after screens full of enemies in a flash, and adds a ton to the difficulty, as well as the fun, factors.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great. There is no main menu, and no options for the game. Considering the controls are more like a Minter game (think Gridrunner) and there’s no option for 1:1 relative touch controls, it’s a pain to get into. Constantly re-adjusting your finger, and under/overcompensating for the extra space your ship will move while trying to dodge huge amounts of bullets of enemies gets very frustrating, very fast. This is kind of a shock, because Buster Red’s controls are fantastic 1:1 relative touch, so it’s strange that this was left out of the sequel.
Also, there’s only one Mode in the game, whereas Buster Red has a Boss Rush Mode, and an Elite Mode. This doesn’t really take away from the replay value, because there’s always a high replay value when it comes to shmups, and GameCenter leaderboards, but it does take away from the feeling of a complete game. Almost every shmup in the AppStore either has Arcade and iPhone Modes, Boss Rush Modes, Practice Modes, or more, and not having this included in Buster Spirits does make it seem kind of incomplete.
There’s also no difficulty settings, and only one ship to choose from, which, when it comes to shoot-em-ups, is a very big deal. Considering almost all of these things were included in Buster Red, I can’t help but wonder why they were left out of it’s sequel. But priced at $1.99, and being Universal, if you’re a shmup fanatic, it’s hard to pass up another Buster title. Unfortunately, you might not be too pleased with the product. Hopefully Iskandar Inc. adds to the game in future updates, but as it is now, it’s a hard recommendation, even with some great Buster titles under their belt.
OrangePixel has proven, with their mobile game releases, that they are kings of the retro gaming world. Their lineup of Meganoid, Stardash, INC, Super Drill Panic and more now have another title that’ll eat up gamers lives; Neoteria, an arcade inspired retro shoot-em-up with the difficulty level fans of OrangePixel have come to love and respect. And really, OrangePixel development merged with shmup gameplay… a pretty hardcore fan of both couldn’t ask for more.
In the game, you’ll start off with only Easy Mode selectable. As you progress through the first world, you’ll unlock Normal Mode, and once you complete the first world on Normal, you unlock Hard Mode, which, if you’re familiar with OrangePixel’s games, is basically where the hardcore gamers will spend most of their time. You’re given little snippets of the story as you make your way from world to world. The outer mining settlement is under alien attack, and it’s up to you to stop them.
There are checkpoints throughout each world, set up kind of like levels. Each has 3 stars which you can earn by playing on all 3 difficulties. The first star is for beating the level on Easy, second star for Normal, and third for Hard. There are different paths which you can play through on your way through each world, with each path leading to the same end boss. You are able to go back and replay previously beaten stages if you’d like to power-up your weapon, which you do by collecting the blue crystals that enemies leave behind, or if you’d like to try and travel through all the paths in each world.
As with other OrangePixel games, Neoteria is done in a retro style that looks fantastic. However, there is one little drawback. On the iPad, the graphics have a little blur behind them whenever objects are moving. This includes the backgrounds, environments, player ship, enemies, and projectiles. It’s not too much of an issue, because most of the time, you’ll be focusing on the crazy amount of enemies coming at you, and trying to survive, but it is there. I’m not sure if it’s there on the iPod, because of the smaller screen, but if it is, it’s not noticeable.
The controls for Neoteria aren’t really what you would expect from a shooter like this, and it’s where the arcade inspiration really becomes apparent. On the left side of the screen, you’re given two buttons for movement of your ship up and down, and on the right side, there’s a fire button, but you can tap anywhere on the right side of the screen to fire. There is no auto-fire, so you’ll constantly be tapping on the right side of the screen to shoot. Here’s where those quick tapping abilities all you old-school gamers should still have come in handy.
In the Controls Menu, you’re able to move the buttons around as you see fit, which definitely comes in handy if you’re playing on an iPad. However, the touch detection area is pretty small, and does not go outside of the buttons at all. This can result in your ship not going up or down because your thumb is the slightest little bit off. This is understandable, since you are able to move the buttons around, and could potentially have the up button pretty much touching the down button, and you wouldn’t want the detection area to overlap. Being able to make the buttons bigger would be a nice way of fixing this, especially since they go invisible after a short time, and obscuring the gameplay area wouldn’t really be an issue with it.
To top it off, it’s also iCade and Joypad supported!
Content + Replayability : 4/5
Neoteria does not really have a whole lot of content, especially when compared to the insane amount of levels in OrangePixel‘s other titles. 3 worlds, each with 8 pretty short levels in them. I’m hoping that like their other games, Neoteria will get some nice content updates in the future. But like other shmups, the value is really in the replay value, not necessarily in the content, and Neoteria has it in spades. Yes, there are only 24 short levels in the game, but you’ll be able to play through them with each of the 3 characters, and finding out how to make it into the hidden paths could take a while.
There’s also the scoring system. At the end of each level, your score is based on the percentage of the level’s enemies that you wiped out, your shot accuracy, and the score you built up while playing through the level. This does add an extra level of replay value, as the first couple times you play through the game, you’ll probably be pounding away on the fire button, and then start trying to increase your score by getting higher accuracy percentages.
Neoteria is also supported by OpenFeint and GameCenter, with 12 achievements, and 3 leaderboards, one for each character (difficulty). So if you’re a high-score chaser, battling for a higher position on the leaderboards is sure to keep you busy for some time. Getting all of the achievements should also take a while, as a lot of them are for finding the secret paths, and 100% completing each difficulty.
Granted, Neoteria isn’t OrangePixel’s best release to date, but I’m ecstatic that one of my favorite development teams released a shmup, one of my favorite type of games (yeah, I’m a platformer/shmup/strategy fanatic). The developers have said that they’re working on another control scheme, as a few players aren’t really comfortable with the current set-up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got a few content updates as well. OrangePixel’s other titles have also been known to get very fleshed out/extremely polished based on player feedback, so the distortion with the graphics, touchy controls, and any other issues that there might be, have a very good chance of being dealt with.
At $1.99, being Universal, having iCade and Joypad compatibility, as well as the crazy high replay value that comes along with shmups and games having GameCenter and OpenFeint support, not to mention, it’s ORANGEPIXEL, it’s a great buy.
With the hardware for iDevices getting more powerful year after year, it’s no surprise that iOS gamers are seeing more and more games ported over from other platforms. Luckily, quite a few of these games that are being ported over, are getting enhancements, and cost a fraction of their original price. Taito, recently bringing RayForce, a shmup from the early 90’s, released in Arcades, on the Sega Saturn, and Windows, over to the iOS, also decided to port over one of their newer titles, DariusBurst, a PSP and Arcade game, released only in Japan. Taito has also added quite a few features to the iOS version, giving it an all new SP Mode with new enemy patterns, and revised boss battles, as well as the Assault ship from the arcade version of the game, and new music.
With DariusBurst SP (Second Prologue) the setting switches between under-water and space levels, with the bosses being mechanical sea-creatures. This makes for 8 possible run-throughs of the game, and is a great change of pace from the standard World War/Vietnam shoot-em-ups that have cluttered the AppStore over the last couple years.
You’re able to choose between 4 ships, with 2 being locked when you first start the game. To unlock these, you’ll need to do a full run-through of the game in either Original or SP Mode, and to get the second locked ship, you’ll need to unlock Mission Mode, and complete 2 missions in Level 3. Each ship has their own strengths, multipliers, and burst shots.
Like other Darius games, you’re able to choose 5 stages while progressing through a pyramid set-up, having 11 levels in total. While blasting away, you’ll come across various enemies that will be colored either red, blue, or green, each powering up your shot, shield, and missiles.
There are 3 different gaming modes; Original, SP, and Mission. With Original Mode, you’ll be able to experience the original PSP version of the game, with the same enemy patterns and music. The SP Mode gives you a chance to blast through different enemy patterns, and revised boss battles, and all with a remixed soundtrack. With Mission Mode, you’re given 8 different levels to play through, each with 4 missions. You’re only given one life, and are put up either against a regular level without a boss, or only a boss battle, and are set to try and score as high as you can within those parameters. Mission Mode is unlocked once you’ve completed two different paths through the game in either Original or SP mode.
Scoring Mechanics: 4/5
The scoring system in DariusBurst is fairly simple, at least, compared to some of the other depthy scoring mechanics some other Bullet Hell titles have. You’re given a Shot Multiplier which increases as you take out enemies throughout the level and each time you’re hit, your Shot Multiplier goes down. The fastest way to increase the Shot Multiplier is to take out large groups of enemies with your burst shot.
Each ship has their own Burst Multiplier, which is added on to the Shot Multiplier. Each ship has their own Burst Multiplier. For instance, Legend and Next Zero ships both have a 6x Burst Multiplier, giving them a top multiplier of 96x. The Assault ship has a 7x Burst Multiplier, topping out at 112x. To take advantage of this, killing the last enemy in a formation, as well as the mid-bosses, bosses, boss pieces and large enemies will give you the highest scores.
You’re also given bonus points at the end of the game for the amount of ships that you have, getting 10 million bonus points for not dying once. There are also some routes that will give players more points than others. Basically, use your Burst to take out large groups of enemies, large enemies, mid and end level bosses, and try to not get hit or die, and you’ll score big.
The graphics in DariusBurst are fantastic. 2.5D gameplay adds more depth than you would think, with ships able to fly by on the “right” and “left” sides of your ship before coming into “firing view”, and the backgrounds that move alongside the foregrounds where the gameplay is taking place looks gorgeous. There’s also areas where you might get dizzy because of the speed and way that the background moves about, giving the illusion of the ship turning down a 3D corridor, and out into space. Animations for the enemies, especially bosses, as well as the explosions, all look incredible. With the game being Universal, it really shines on the iPad 2, with crystal clear and very crisp visuals, it’s definitely one of the best looking games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on an iDevice over the last couple years.
Replay Value: 5/5
As with most other shmups, DariusBurst comes along with a huge amount of replay value, especially with the Mission Mode Stages. There’s 3 difficulties, selectable in the Options Menu, GameCenter support with 17 leaderboards, and a whopping 59 achievements. With all 4 of the ships having different types of play, learning how to best play with each of them, along with the different paths you can choose from in both Original and SP Modes, the amount of replay value is extremely high, especially if you’re a completionist who’ll go after all 59 of the achievements.
DariusBurst is set up like a quarter sucking arcade game, and because of that, it has the potential of staying on your device forever.
Taito’s release of RayForce had quite a few fans of the shmup genre worried, as the controls were sketchy, and the gameplay not differing at all between iPhone and Arcade modes, but with the release of DariusBurst, and all of the extra effort that went into creating a special game for the device, Taito has re-claimed a spot directly under Cave on my favorite shmup+bullet hell developers list. The price of $10.99 is a GREAT deal, especially considering the PSP version is selling between $30 and a whopping $120, and doesn’t contain all the extras that the iOS version has. If you’re a fan of shmups, DariusBurst is a MUST BUY. Being Universal, beautiful on the iPad, smooth as butter on the iPod, and just a blast to play, Taito deserves to be supported for this. Hopefully other development companies see the support Taito is getting, and will take the iDevice more seriously. It’s games like this that push the AppStore forward, and give me hope that the device I use as my main gaming console will grow above and beyond ‘real’ gaming platforms.
Shoot-em-ups have expanded quite a bit since Cave hit the iOS scene in April of 2010. However, very few games have done what Cave’s releases have done for the scene, so it’s nice to see a developer realize this, and take the genre in completely different direction. DarkWave Game’s new title, Act of Fury: Kraine’s Revenge, is a different kind of shmup for fans of the genre. A game in which, instead of shooting your enemies down, you get as close to them as you can, disabling their systems, and taking them down with a tornado like force that surrounds you.
To start things off, the graphics in Act of Fury are great. I have run into some slight jumping around of the screen when the levels start to scroll left or right, or zoom in and out, like when an air-strike comes in, however it’s nothing game-breaking, but is noticeable, and should be brought up. Aside from this, the variety with enemies is nice, the 4 different environments look great, and the animations are fantastic. The music and sounds go along nicely in passing on the feel of the world in Act of Fury as well.
Gameplay-wise, you’re able to use two different controls schemes, both involving relative touch controls. One gives you a 2:1 movement ratio, while the other gives you a 1:1 ratio. Generally with shmup games, a 1:1 ratio is preferred, so it’s nice that DarkWave included it as an option, but the whole game plays and feels better with the 2:1 default movement. There’s 9 Stages, each with a Normal, and Hell difficulty mode. In the Normal Mode, you’re able to disable enemies projectiles by attacking them (moving next to them), while in Hell Mode, the enemies will keep firing at you no matter what. There are items that you can pick up by destroying buildings, extra lives, bombs, shields, and items that stop time, but if you don’t use an item that you’ve picked up before you pick up another one, it’s gone forever. A big part of the gameplay is waiting until there are multiple objects on the screen that you can destroy, and trying to destroy them all at once, building up your combo, and Fury bar, which is displayed under your health bar, and increases your damage radius, total damage, and increases your score quite a bit. Mastering how to build up your Fury gauge and destroy as many destructible objects at a time is the key to scoring big.
Each of the 9 stages offers 3 star ranks which are based solely on your score. Not at all on how many times you get hit, or how many lives you loose, which is fairly different from every other shoot-em-up game out there. You’re then able to use the stars that you earn to ’buy’ upgrades and power-ups in the shop. There are some more powerful upgrades that you can only use in Hell Mode, which helps drive players to play the Harder Difficulty after beating the Normal Mode. You are able to change how you allocate your stars for power-ups before each stage, so experimentation does come into play, which is a great addition to the core gameplay. I should mention that ,right now, there seems to be a problem with a couple of the stage’s rankings, but is being worked on by the developers and gamers, and a fix for the one or two levels with un-balanced score/star rankings should be available fairly soon.
Act of Fury is a very interesting addition to the shmup genre. It does a fantastic job of mixing the Spirit/Bit Pilot/Silverfish type mechanics with shmup influenced gameplay, and presenting it all in an extremely polished and well rounded package. There are GameCenter and OpenFeint leader boards for each of the 9 stages in both Normal and Hell Modes, as well as a total score leader board for both Modes, along with 32 achievements, all adding immensely to the replay value, which, once you get into the Hell Mode levels, is already fairly high. With the price being $2, it’s definitely a game that’s worth every penny, and then some, especially if you’re a fan of the shoot-em-up genre. Act of Fury also runs on 2nd GEN devices, which, with this genre, is fantastic news.
Act of Fury: Kraine’s Revenge gets a score of 4 out of 5.
The Tilt To Live and Shmup genres have been mashed together a few times, and have had extremely nice results. FlipShip and Blue Attack come to mind right off the bat. Though it’s no surprise really, as the whole Tilt To Live genre is basically bullet hell without any bullets, dodging and weaving through enemies like you would a bullet onslaught in a Cave title. True Axis (Jet Car Stunts) is the most recent publisher to see the potential with this genre, as they’ve released PomPom’s title, Space Tripper, their highly anticipated iOS port of the PSN and PC game, Astro Tripper.
In Space Tripper, you’ll shoot and dodge your way through 14 levels, split up across 4 different worlds, of wave-enemy battles, with quite a few boss fights, and even a task or two to mix things up, all building up to a final boss battle that could very well cause your heart to explode from adrenaline. One of the first things you might notice about Space Tripper, if you’ve never played it before, is that it is set up more like a shooter than a Tilt To Live type game, making it more reminiscent of Blue Attack than FlipShip or any other TTL genre’d title. However, if you go into the game thinking it’s going to play like your typical shooter, you’ll be in for quite a surprise, and maybe even disappointment.
Space Tripper is controlled by tilting your iDevice, which is where the Tilt To Live comparisons come into play. There are no touch, or relative touch for that matter, controls, which might throw some people off, and in some cases, might result in a few lost sales. But if you go into the game thinking of it more like a TTL type game with more shmup elements than any other TTL title, chances are, you’ll end up pleasantly surprised. There’s also controls for flipping your ship left and right, which is done by tapping on the right side of the screen, and changing your shot from straight on to a much wider shot, by tapping on the left side. The tilt controls are extremely tight, and work very well within the game. There’s tilt sensitivity options if you’d like to try and make it tighter, and an option to set up calibration, which, for some reason, is often forgotten in tilting games, which the only reason I’m bringing it up. The graphics in Space Tripper are ported amazingly well. Even though there aren’t as many particle effects as you’ll find in the PSN version, it definitely doesn’t look dull. A lot of the environments are almost reminiscent of R-Type, as are a lot of the enemies, though everything is done with 3D models, and very modern, it just has that old-school feeling about it all.
The level design is something that really should be brought up as well. The levels are not very big, but do scroll left and right as you move along, and a lot of the designs would be perfect for an FPS multiplayer area battle, with different levels, and great layouts. In a lot of the levels, you’ll end up spending your time on one side of the level, trying to take out an enemy that’s the cause for a ton of spawning enemies, while on the other end, the same enemies are forming an army while waiting for you to finish off the opposite side. This is where the 3D modeling for the levels can be used to your advantage, as you can fly over to the side holding the army, and come up over the edge of a ramp, swing from the bottom to the top portion of the screen, and then back off onto the ramp again, causing all of the enemies projectiles to either fly over you, or hit the bottom portion of the ramp, and then go back in for another strike.
You will need to be careful with how you handle all of the enemies though, as you won’t always have enough time to play cat and mouse with them, because all of the levels have a time limit. This adds to the already fairly high difficulty, and to the adrenaline you’ll pump out while playing Space Tripper. You’re given 3 lives in the beginning, and if you waste those, you’ll have an option to reset your score for one life. Don’t be fooled, even veteran Tilt To Live and Shmup players will have a fairly hard time with the game on Normal difficulty. The game is incredibly fun however, which will give you that ‘one more time’ thought over and over again, until you’ve wasted an hour of your life hammering away at a couple levels. The game is saved once you beat a world though, so you can come back and start a world with the lives that you had when starting that world, even after a game over, and once you finally do beat the game, you can try out the Hard and Very Hard difficulty settings, as well as the Score Attack and Challenge Modes that all provide an insane amount of replay value. On top of that, there’s OpenFeint and GameCenter integration, containing 21 different leader boards, one for each level in Score Attack Mode, one for each difficulty of the Campaign, and one for each of the 4 endless Challenge Levels. Not to mention the 8, incredibly hard to achieve, achievements.
Gamers have been waiting for this iOS port of Astro Tripper for quite some time, and even if you’ve got Astro Tripper, the gameplay in Space Tripper is different enough with the tilt controls that it’s basically a new gameplay experience. You’ll need to change your strategy, as tactics that are memorized, and fairly easy to pull off with a controller, are not to easy to pull off on a device utilizing tilt controls. $3.99 for this Universal game is a great deal, and one that any arcade, old-school, shmup, Tilt To Live, or adrenaline fanatic should jump on immediately. PomPom has definitely shown that they are the equivalent of Cave Inc. within the Tilt To Live genre.