Reviewed: June 20, 2010
Released: May 29, 2010
App Store Price: $2.99
I love space shooters. Donít ask me why. It probably has something to do with my age and the fact than space shooters were some of the earliest video games I remember playing starting back with Defender and Space Invaders. As technology has advanced so has the shooter with games like Silpheed and R-Type and Ikaruga just to name a few. Even in 2010 the classic space shooter genre lives on with great games coming to Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Store, but who would have dreamed that one of the best space shooters in recent memory would be coming to your iPhone?|
Iíve played plenty of scrolling shooters on my iPhone over the past few years; mostly top-down space and WWII combat games with air-to-air and ground bombings, but Assault Squadron takes the genre to a whole new level of presentation while keeping that core intensity and gameplay intact. Prepare for six amazing missions that take you from the outer reaches of space to the inner core of the Earth as you fight off an alien invasion of epic proportions and overwhelming odds.
Assault Squadron delivers the complete space shooter experience starting with fundamental gameplay ideas and great controls. You get to choose from absolute or relative touch controls, a virtual joystick, or even responsive accelerometer controls. I recommend the latter if for no other reason than you donít want to block the gorgeous visuals with your finger. Youíll still have to touch a few virtual buttons to drop smart bombs, deploy secondary weapons, or pause the game.
The game blasts off with a stylish opening movie complete with deep-voice narrator. You then pick your difficulty, which dictates enemy numbers, and the number of continues you get to finish the game, and then itís time to pick a ship. There are three, each offering various speeds, strengths, and weapon powers, and all provide a somewhat unique gameplay experience adding some replay value.
The CG movies that launch and/or end each of the six chapters are something spectacular to behold. I have never seen anything like this on a mobile device; it actually rivals some stuff Iíve seen on next-gen consoles. You will be blown away. When the game starts youíll find yourself in one of two orientations, either flying vertically or in landscape mode. The opening chapter screen will indicate which orientation to use. Now it is all about destroying as many small, medium and large aliens as you can while avoiding their crazy patterns of laser fire and picking up the multi-colored energy orbs until you reach the epic boss as the end of each mission.
Bosses are insane in Assault Squadron, usually having multiple sections you have to destroy before the whole thing goes down. It helps to have your primary weapon powered up and plenty of smart bombs and secondary weapons in reserve, and prepare to dodge some complex patterns of incoming fire. This is space shooter goodness at its best.
Assault Squadron is easily the best-looking game (of the 350) I own for my iPhone. The graphics glide by at a silky 60fps even when dozens of enemies and all sorts of explosions and patterns of energy litter the gorgeous multi-layer backgrounds. Even when 2x upscaled to play on my iPad, the game still looks phenomenal, although I do hope an HD version is in the works. I actually found the game played slightly better on the iPad since you have more screen area to use, both for seeing incoming enemies and laser fire, as well as a smoother touch-to-move interface area.
In addition to some stellar futuristic sound effects, and quality voice narration, Assault Squadron delivers a killer soundtrack from psychedelic trance artist, Psygone. The music is perfectly matched to the energy and intensity of the action on the screen and fuels the gameplay.
Sadly, the game only lasts 30-50 minutes depending on your skill, the chosen difficulty, and how many continues you use. On Casual you have unlimited lives but on Normal and Expert you may have trouble even getting to the end of the game until you have practiced a bit and learned the levels and enemy patterns. Crystal Leaderboards track your high scores for all players and difficulty levels and there are built-in achievements to strive for, ensuring this is one game you wonít be putting down anytime soon.
Assault Squadron easily stacks up with any space shooter I have played on the PS3 or 360 in the past few years, both in visuals and in gameplay. Controls are responsive no matter which mode you choose and the only thing better than the presentation is the adrenaline rush you get while playing the best space shooter ever created for a mobile device.