Reviewed: May 18, 2009
Released: June 7, 2009
App Store Price: $2.99
Circuit Strike.One has recently released their 2.0 update adding a new control scheme and some performance enhancements. I have been sitting on this review for a while now, falling victim to a variety of issues ranging from lag to complete shutdown of the app. But even after a month and two update patches I still find Circuit Strike.One completely unplayable. I’ve spent so many hours with this game and even passed it around to some friends and nobody can make heads or tails out of how to play or even what they are supposed to do.
On the surface the game looks – and thanks to the new dual stick control scheme – plays like Robotron or Geometry Wars. At least with the 2.0 patch I can play, kill a few enemies and survive for more than 30-60 seconds, but the actual gameplay is still a mystery.
You fly your nondescript ship around these square “rooms” full of Tron-like colors and animations. The problem here is that your ship is symmetrical so you don’t always know (at a glance) which direction you are facing making navigation and even firing your weapon problematic. Your weapon seems to be on some sort of slow moving turret, so even with direct input on the right virtual stick it still takes a few moments for your stream of fire to swing around and hit something. I’m used to the instant response and direction changes of Geometry Wars.
The graphics are simply amazing to the point where it will drag your iPhone’s processor to a crawl unless you start tweaking options. It may work better on the new 3Gs but I won’t know until I upgrade in 2010. Things have gotten better with each of the previous updates but this game is still far from smooth. Each screen appears to be composed of multiple transparent overlays with all sorts of cool digital graphics and vector line art giving the illusion of great depth.
The music and sound is also impressive with a nice built-in techno track suitable for any underground rave or you can create a custom track list from your own MP3 library. The game kicks off with the old-fashioned modem connect sound (haven’t heard that in a few years) giving the game an old-school Tron flavor to match the neon graphics.
My biggest complaint is that the game is comprised of numerous square rooms that may or may not wrap around. You can drift through shimmering walls and find yourself in a completely new room with new enemies, but without a map or even a directional finder I was wandering around like a lost sheep looking for shield generators, and once I destroyed them I could seldom find the core in time to beat the countdown.
On countless occasions the game would spawn my ship either right on top of an enemy or so close that you cannot avoid them. Nothing is more frustrating than dying less than a second after rebirth. The game does checkpoint and autosave after you complete a level so you can always pick-up where you left off.
Perhaps a tutorial would have helped to understand how to play. The few screens of directions certainly didn’t and the lack of any navigation within the game just had me feeling lost the entire time. The pre-game screens also use some futuristic font for the buttons that is nearly impossible to read.
Even with three control schemes, none of them worked particularly well and with no direction to the gameplay, I just got lost in all the fireworks. Circuit Strike.One is an impressive technological feat for the iPhone that looks and sounds great, but a game that I simply didn’t enjoy. It has an online mode to create a profile that tracks stats and scores and a leaderboard for bragging rights. Judging from those numbers there are a lot of people out there who do understand the game and are quite good at it, but it just wasn’t for me.