Super Crossfire Review

Super Crossfire Review

Oct 14, 2013

Earlier this year, Radiangames published all of its mobile games on Google Play. Well, all except one: Super Crossfire. iOS gamers were well aware of it from its Chillingo-published version in 2011. Even Blackberry Playbook owners knew about it because Unity Games published a version on there. Now in 2013, Android owners finally get to play this flip-floppy space shooter, and it has been well worth the wait because it is a brilliant game.

At its heart, Super Crossfire is essentially Galaxian but with the ability to flip to the other side of the playing field. This allows players to avoid shots that come in, of course, but it also becomes necessary to take on the complex enemy formations that are encountered. Some enemies can only be hit from one side. Some enemies with giant lasers are best faced from the back. Some enemies provide shielding to nearby enemies and must be taken out. Thankfully, players also have a powerful super attack that recharges by collecting gems, to help wipe out the trickier formations.

Honestly, the game is more fun than the average space shooter because of the simple complexity. Players learn how to survive in quick order, and it just becomes an instinctive thing. Basically, just avoid the bullets and lasers, kill the UFOs that go past to get their lucrative powerups, and just don’t screw up.


The upgrade system plays a helping hand as well. Players get additional points every 5 to 10 levels that go into one of eight stats from additional health to more firepower. The best part is that the upgrades can all be reconfigured as needed. Didn’t like that shot spread upgrade and want to bank the points toward an additional armor point? Do it! It’s kind of a Radiangames tradition, and it’s a great fit here.

The Android port is great: the game is faithfully intact, and its graphics, while largely flat, have the same great effects. It’s a stylish game. The touchscreen controls are effective enough, but want to really have some fun? Get a gamepad. Super Crossfire supports HID gamepads and is a ton of fun with it. I feel better at it, but it also might have just been a good run I got on where I beat the game in one sitting with a gamepad. Still, this is one where it’s fun to sit back and enjoy the game with actual controls where possible.

As well, there’s Google+ support for leaderboards, achievements, and cloud saves, featuring a friendly warning dialogue when switching devices to load from the cloud.

The intense retro-style shoot ’em up action that encapsulates Super Crossfire makes it one of my favorite mobile games of all time. Two years later, with this perfect Android version, it only reiterates how great this game is, with its hundreds of levels, upgrades to unlock, multiple difficulty levels, and more. There’s a lot to do and a lot of fun to be had. Buy this game.

Delta-V Racing Review

Delta-V Racing Review

Aug 16, 2013

Picture the futuristic racer Wipeout, with its high-speed hovercar racing, boost pads, and items to make for an intense racing experience with a dash of combat mixed in. Now picture Gradius. The classic 2D shoot-’em-up with its difficult-to-traverse paths, and unique weapons powerup system. Mix the two, and that’s what Delta-V Racing is. It’s Wipeout gameplay and aesthetics in a Gradius world. And it’s just crazy enough to work.

Seriously, playing the game, there’s no better way to describe it than that it’s a literal combination of the two games. This doesn’t mean that it feels like a rip-off of either: the combination makes it feel unique, and like a really clever idea. There’s the movement feel of a 2D shooter, with constant acceleration forward, but the lap structure of a racer. The powerups are standard combat racing fare: forward-firing missiles, reverse-firing mines, boosts, etc. But the game borrows the Gradius powerup cycling, where running over another item pad goes to the next item in the sequence, presumably a better one, unless it’s the last item cycling back around to the first! This familiar element adds a layer of strategy to the game that fits perfectly.


The controls are a solid effort, with a 1-to–1 offset vertical sliding system, where sliding up and down the left side of the screen moves the ship, and tapping on the right side will use an item (or if tapped at the start, will launch a starting-line boost). This works well, and is helped by a cursor indicator showing where the ship will be going, which is great for quick sliding movements. Have faith in the cursor! Splendidly, there’s the ability to use an HID gamepad to control the preceedings as well, which is great too, as later levels demand precision.

Delta-V integrates in Google Play games services for achievements, leaderboards, and even a ghost racing feature where players can take on the fastest time of opponents in their circles. I’m glad to see developers using the games services in such unique ways.

This is well worth checking out for fans of shoot ’em ups and futuristic racers, as it combines the two genres deftly. I had a ton of fun with this one, even in later levels where the challenge ramped up.

Plasma Sky Review

Plasma Sky Review

Mar 18, 2013

Who doesn’t like a little space shoot-’em-up to brighten up their day? Plasma Sky is a basic space shmup that thankfully nails the essentials and is a joy to control.

Players fly around in two-dimensional space, taking on enemies and giant asteroids that fly about in different formations, Galaga-style. The player auto-fires, so they just need to worry about keeping themselves alive, and picking up the powerups for more firepower and additional shields. The game is fast-paced with a variety of enemies on screen, but never gets so jam-packed that it could be considered a “bullet hell” game. It doesn’t have a lot in the way of original hooks to make it stand out, but it nails the basics of the genre to be just satisfying enough.

The thing that really shines through in Plasma Sky is the ease of its controls. The touch-based controls are 1:1, meaning that the ship moves exactly as far as the player’s finger moves. However, they also have an offset, so that the player can reposition their thumb and start moving again, or move their thumb around in a way that doesn’t obscure the screen. As well, there seems to be just enough inertia with the movement that makes the movement feel natural, and not just like dragging an object around a screen, it feels like moving a spaceship around in a game. That natural feeling makes for a tremendous difference in how the game feels. Try the tilt controls too; the developer claims that they are his preferred method.

The game has two modes: Conquest, which boasts 80 levels that can be continued from where the player dies, along with a health bar for maximum player-friendliness. Then there’s Hardcore mode, where there’s no health bar and no continues, it’s all about going far and getting that high score. The lack of online leaderboards on Android is definitely lacking, though – this is seriously where Google needs their Game Center!

While Plasma Sky won’t win any awards for uniqueness, as it does feel awfully familiar while playing it, it’s definitely a game that’s a solid pick-up-and-play experience, and developers of other space shmups need to take heed of its excellent controls.

Syder Arcade HD Review

Syder Arcade HD Review

Feb 8, 2013

Fans of retro-style shoot ’em ups with modern twists ought to check out Syder Arcade. Studio Evil’s debut title, a Defender and Amiga-era pastiche (as discussed recently on The Portable Podcast), strikes just the right nerve as a solid shooter.

Like all good shoot ’em ups, the player has plenty of opportunities to shoot alien spacecraft, because that’s just fun. Players start by choosing a ship from one of three choices with differing weapons and statistics. The battlefield is two-dimensional and free-scrolling, where players can flip the direction they face. Players have a health bar, and can charge up a special attack by taking out enemies and picking up powerups. Boss enemies occasionally come by that need to be destroyed, which is where the special attacks come in handy! Well, that and the numerous enemy fleets, the special attacks help with those too.

There’s a campaign mode to go along with a survival mode, though the ultimate goal in each is simply to blow up enemies before getting blown up, though campaign levels occasionally have targets to protect. But hey, the best defense is a good offense, namely destroying all ships that come in. And that’s the fun of the game: blasting everything and watching the colorful explosions.

The graphics for the game are well done, though amongst all the noise and chaos it can be easy to lose track of the player’s ship. The virtual joystick on phone-sized screens can be small and it has a small activation area, which is tricky to use.

It’s hard for me to say anything too bad about the game, nor anything that’s especially effusive in praise. Syder Arcade just exists as it is, a retro-styled shoot ’em up that wants to let players destroy waves of enemies, unleash special abilities, and just have some mindless fun for a little while. That’s perfectly fine! It’s not a game of the year candidate, but it’s something those who download it and check it out will enjoy.

Hyperwave Review

Hyperwave Review

Jan 17, 2013

Hyperwave is a perfect example of a game that takes an interesting premise, and just winds up being wholly uninteresting.

The game initially appealed to me thanks to its immediate similarities to Super Crossfire, a shoot ’em up from Radiangames that sadly hasn’t made its way to iOS, though it is on the BlackBerry Playbook! The game uses a similar style of having flat ships and enemies on a 2D plane, that’s then tilted vertically for a 3D effect. Players move left and right, trying to protect the bottom of the screen from enemies; each one that gets past the player damages their health, though getting hit by enemies directly does massive amounts of damage to the health bar, so sometimes it’s better to let the enemies slip by than to try and kill them at the last second. Players must survive ten levels with a limited set of lives (that expands over time) to get to the next set. Thankfully, temporary upgrades and powerups can be used to help turn the tables.

I like the colorful visual style, which is colorful, and it’s nice to have a Super Crossfire-esque game on Android. There’s plenty of challenging enemies and formations to take on. An endless mode is available along with 5 sets of 10 levels each. But the game just was one I didn’t quite fall in love with.

Part of the problem is that nothing feels like it has much of any punch. Destroying enemies just isn’t that satisfying. The attack where the player’s ship flies upward and destroys multiple enemies just doesn’t feel all as deadly as it should. It could be the sound design that doesn’t provide the crunchiness to enemy hits. There is just a curious disconnect in the feel of movmeent and what actually happens. The ability to shoot diagonally is largely useless, as it’s hard to be accurate, so shooting straight upward is more useful.

While these aren’t big flaws, overall, they just add up to a game that I didn’t really feel compelled to come back to again and again. It’s not bad, just that it feels somewhat inessential.

A Space Shooter Blitz Review

A Space Shooter Blitz Review

Sep 26, 2012

A Space Shooter Blitz is what happens when a company, in this case Frima Studios, tries to take one of its most well-known games, A Space Shooter for Free, and combine it with the short-burst gameplay of Bejeweled Blitz and other similar “Blitz” titles. This is all about shooting everything in sight to rack up that points multiplier in about a minute’s time. The multiplier drops every time a bullet hits, so caution must be exercised when trouble’s all about, especially with credits to also pick up. This is bullet hell at a hellish pace. At the end of the minute or so (there’s timers that can be picked up), a boss battle begins, where killing it quickly results in even more points. Scores can be uploaded to Facebook, and friends can be competed with.

The concept is a winner. The A Space Shooter formula works wonderfully in short bursts, as having lots of bullets to dodge and enemies to destroy is just great for pick-up-and-play gameplay. I’m surprised no one else thought of this first. The powerup system, along with occasional special battles that can be bought, serve as great replay value incentives. Facebook also serves as a way to integrate cloud saves between different versions of the game, including iOS, Android, and Facebook versions, not to mention across multiple devices.

While I’ve heard of free-to-play being described as like the modern arcade, I didn’t really expect it to be taken so literally by A Space Shooter Blitz. The energy system is literally tokens, and one token is required per game session. While they recharge every day, the only way to keep playing regularly is to keep paying, and while 10 tokens cost $0.99, 30 tokens cost $1.99 and so on, there’s also unlimited-use daily and weekly passes for $6.99 and $12.99 each. It just seems kind of silly to artificially restrict a game like this; Bejeweled Blitz allows for unlimited token-free play, and given that A Space Shooter Blitz is more esoteric in gameplay by comparison, having unlimited replay would help with mastering the game’s mechanics. Considering that there’s already a currency system balanced toward paying to use powerups more often, it seems redundant to have a secondary system.

It’s a shame; without a token system A Space Shooter Blitz could have really been something really cool to pick up and play at any given moment, but the desire to try and monetize with a redundant system meant to seemingly just harass players is frustrating. Check this one out, but be warned, the game is designed to not hook players, just to frustrate them until they buy money to feel satisfied.

Shogun: Rise of the Renegade Review

Shogun: Rise of the Renegade Review

Aug 29, 2012

Mobile shmups generally come in two flavors: there’s usually the remakes/ports of classic games that are absurdly difficult. Hardly accessible, but also extremely pure. Then, there’s the modern games made to support modern touch screen devices. these are usually a lot easier to control, but aren’t as pure in difficulty. Shogun: Rise of the Renegade bucks the trend! This is bullet hell as it was meant to be. There’s lots of bullets to dodge, and giant ships to destroy. Players do have a shield bar, that serves as a way to soften the blows that bullet hell games dole out in spades, but also works as a way to introduce players to bullet grazing. Flying near bullets without hitting them refills the shield bar. Keeping it high is handy, as additional shield units can be used to clear out the screen or upgrade one’s weapon. Better weapons mean more dead enemies.

The control scheme is effective, making it easy to move the ship around the screen. When lifting the finger off the screen, the game slows down and weapons can be switched, along with the buttons to upgrade weapons and deploy the EMP. The game has 4 main levels to play initially, and they can be played in any order, though going in order is recommended. Level 1 is a lot easier than level 4. There are plenty of options for game settings. Want to see the tiny hit box that the ship is actually affected by? Do it! The dark ship color can make it easier to see bullets as well. Scrolling sensitivity is extremely handy for offset controls.

The game is still extremely challenging, and while it’s plenty of fun to effortlessly weave through bullets…occasionally…the controls are still a problem. I seem to wind up with my finger going off the edge and having to reposition my thumb extremely often, even on the Nexus 7. Also, the difficulty of the game is such that beating a level is extremely hard; perhaps some checkpoints would be a welcome addition?

For fans of the shoot ’em up, Shogun is a great choice. It’s set up to be friendly for mobile devices, while providing the challenge that modern entries into the genre are expected to provide. Check this out.

Neoteria Review

Neoteria Review

Feb 23, 2012

Neoteria is the newest game from OrangePixel, another retro-inspired affair. This time, they tackle the horizontally-scrolling shoot ‘em up, as this title takes inspiration from games like R-Type and Gradius. The story is light as it tends to be in these games: there’s some dialog at the start of each level, but nothing that is particularly essential. What is essential is taking out as many enemies as possible, advancing to the next checkpoint in each level (there are infinite lives here, but also a power down punishment for dying), trying just to survive against the onslaught of enemies.

The traditional OrangePixel art style is here: pixel art, and 16-bit-esque chiptunes. The game has the look and feel of a title like R-Type, only slightly less frustrating. I emphasize slightly, because the game is still challenging, even on its easiest difficulty. It just doesn’t feel impossible. Also, the removal of horizontal movement is a great decision for a mobile shmup, as it’s just one fewer factor to be concerned with.

The weapon upgrade mechanic from INC returns here, where collectibles dropped by enemies can be used for more powerful weapons. This bar decreases on death and it’s possible for weapons to downgrade, so replaying earlier levels becomes necessary to keep it up. Unlike INC, the power-down is much less on death, so while grinding is still somewhat necessary, it’s less of an annoyance. I still have issues with the power down, but it is orders of magnitude less annoying, though it becomes very necessary in later levels, and grinding that first world becomes boring after a short while.

A lot of the game isn’t really explained in the game itself. How does the star system work, and why do I have two stars on some levels and one star on others? How do the branching paths unlock? No clue!

The controls are rather fussy, if only because the up/down buttons are rather small. The game supports physical controls on the Xperia Play, and external controls on tablets and phones with USB host support and the’re far superior to the button controls, as too often have I tried to move in one direction, only for nothing to happen because I wasn’t pressing on the button. This is where the Reckless Racing control customization would have come in handy, to define custom touch areas for each button.

Neoteria is frustrating in two senses: first, in the sense that most retro shmups are. It nails that aspect. The second comes from the grinding and touch control issues. The free version is definitely worth checking out for those curious.

R-Type Review

R-Type Review

Sep 30, 2011

There is a funny thing about shoot’em up games, or shmups for short, and that is no matter how this genre grows and evolves, one game still sets the bar for difficulty and game play. That game is R-Type. DotEmu has brought all the frustration and man tears back for a new generation to enjoy, and it is a beautiful thing.

At its core, R-Type is all about learning enemy patterns while navigating through the stage and shooting down various aliens, and it must all be done with a detachable shield and a handful weapon power-ups. Make no mistake about it, this was a difficult game when it first came out, and it is still an extremely frustrating game to this day. Even though the game may only contain eight levels, those levels will be replayed over and over again.

As luck would have it, the controls for this game are rock solid. The primary scheme is a 1:1 touch recognition where the player can move the ship by dragging their finger around the screen, and this is complemented by two buttons on the right for launching the shield and charging up the death beam. A second method is a virtual d-pad, but this was less responsive. Rounding out the package is the next stage in progression unlocks as levels are completed, thus making it easier to continue the treacherous path of finishing this game.

DotEmu also kept this game true to its roots when it comes to how the game looks and sounds. Chiptunes will fill eardrums while bullets fly and enemies die, all in their screechy retro goodness. The game is packed with colorful sprites and levels ranging from open space to alien infested colonies. It may look and sound old, but that quickly subsides to the frustrations of yet another death, and there is no better place to die than in this game.

R-Type is still one of the most challenging games on the market, and this version is no different. Those that beat this on normal can try hard, but it maybe best to play that mode in a padded room, as chucking the phone in anger is sure to be a possibility. Those that love retro games, or just want to try their hand at IGN’s 7th most difficult game to beat, will find a marvelous port courtesy of DotEmu.

Abyss Attack Review

Abyss Attack Review

Mar 24, 2011

Whenever I write about shmups (shoot ’em ups), I always have brought up the eastern/western split in shmup philosophy – eastern ones being practically impossible, and western ones being far more forgiving. I think I might have found something that is in a class by itself, and it is Abyss Attack. This vertically-scrolling shmup, which takes place underwater, has you trying to shoot your way through 8 levels of underwater enemies, collecting missiles and health pickups along the way. Each level has a boss that you have to figure out how to defeat, as they occasionally have sections that will only be vulnerable at certain times, or you’ll have to move around as they chase you to your current position.

All My Enemies Review

All My Enemies Review

Feb 24, 2011

All My Enemies is a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up (henceforth referred to as a shmup) that’s a rarity – an Android exclusive, and with a unique story. Unlike other similar shmups where you play the supposed good guy who wantonly destroys everything that gets in his way, here you actually play as the villain. You work for the Emperor, who is apparently sick of not getting paid tribute from those who rules over, so he dispatches you, a single warrior, to go make some suckers pay up. So it’s your goal to use limitless amounts of ammo to shoot your enemies, and pick up the gold they drop. Otherwise, it’s all shooting enemies, asteroids, and picking up powerups, trying to survive as long as you can.

Overkill Review

Overkill Review

Feb 21, 2011

I remember one fateful childhood Christmas morning when I opened my new copy of Super R-Type for the SNES. On that day, my love of side scrolling shooters was born, and ever since, I have indulged in games in that genre on every gaming device I’ve owned. That being the case, Overkill should have been one of my favorite Android games; unfortunately, it just didn’t fit the bill.

Let’s start with what Overkill does right. Visually, this game is excellent. The backgrounds are great looking, and the ships and asteroids you encounter have a unique style to them. Even the menus are great looking, and easy to navigate. The sound design does a great job of complimenting the visual style in this game as well. Speaking strictly to Overkill’s presentation, it does everything right.