How many times have you been walking along, minding your own business when one of our feathered friends has decided to "decorate" your coat in white? Well, with the Pigeon Squadron game available for the iPhone, the boot is on the other, erm, wing as you take to the skies and launch bombing raids on innocent pedestrians, animals and vehicles.
Pigeon Squadron is instantly appealing. At first glance, it appears to offer everything you want from a game: a fun idea, bright, appealing graphics, good sound and music and instant pick up and play appeal. Sadly, whilst Pigeon Squadron initially offers these things, it's sorely lacking in long-term playability.
Let's start with the graphics, which make excellent use of the iPhone's screen and colour capabilities. The action is viewed top down, with the camera sitting just above your pigeon. Beneath you are roads, pathways, lakes and other things you might expect to see in a city. Graphics are mostly good, although there are a few minor issues of perspectives (ducks, for example, are the same size as dogs!). Sometimes it's not absolutely clear what things are (the first time I saw a duck, for example, I hadn't a clue what it was until I "bombed" it and heard it quack indignantly). However, since you can bomb pretty much anything you like, you don't actually need to be able to recognise everything immediately. A number of well drawn cut scenes add to the strong visual appeal and help link the levels together into a vaguely coherent narrative.
There is one graphical element which is absolutely unforgivable. For the most part, the city scrolls beneath you very smoothly. However, if you fly too far in any direction the map runs out. Rather than simply scrolling round on itself or inventing some sort of hazard that forces you to turn around, you just get a great big black band across the screen, which is really shoddy. Worse still, your targets can move through this black band off the map, so you can be in hot pursuit of your target, reach the end of the screen and be forced to watch them sail out of range, and there's nothing you can do.
Sound is very good. The opening title screen has a great little militaristic number, which perfectly suits the main theme of the game. The in-game tune is also not too bad and doesn't become too annoying; whilst some of the sound effects are rather amusing (the indignant ducks and dogs particularly make me smile)
Controls have been well implemented and make the game a nice easy title to instantly pick up and play and younger gamers (whom I suspect this title is really aimed at) will be able to get the hang of them with ease. The game uses the iPhone's accelerometer to move left or right, with a fire button tucked in the bottom right hand corner for launching your "bomb". The controls are generally responsive, although I did have a couple of small issues. Firstly, tilting the phone forwards is supposed to make you fly faster, yet no matter how far I tilted it, I noticed little real difference. Secondly, the Fire button is a little on the small side for adult fingers and I occasionally found my finger slipping off it at a crucial moment.
Sadly, it's the game play that really lets Pigeon Squadron down. Initially, it's great fun: the game area seems large and open ended (until you encounter that annoying black band) and there's a certain amount of fun to be had from swooping around, avoiding objects thrown at you and bombing innocent passers-by.
Unfortunately, this doesn't last very long. Each mission essentially boils down to the same thing: you have to hit a number of specified targets within a set time limit. As well as achieving your primary goal, you also have to amass as many points as possible by bombing other things. At the end of each level, you are given either a gold, silver or bronze medal, based on your score. Then you repeat the process again for the next level, which is little different from the one you have just completed.
This lack of variety kills the game. Although the first few levels are fun, it soon becomes dull and repetitive. After the first level, there aren't really many new aspect introduced, so you've pretty much seen everything it has to offer after your first go and the element of fun from the game's basic concept soon wears rather thin.
The game is also far too easy (another reason I suspect it's mainly aimed at kids). I breezed through dozens of levels on my very first game (and I don't consider myself the most competent gamer in the world). In fact, on that first go, I never saw the "game over" screen, because I got bored long before I was in danger of dying, and turned the game off. I suspect even young children will soon realise how shallow the game is and ask for something else to be loaded up instead.
Pigeon Squadron has potential. With more varied game play and a more challenging difficulty level, it could have been something akin to an airborne Grand Theft Auto As it is, even at the low price of 59p it doesn't really offer great value for money.
© Copyright SWSt 2011