“ Genre: Shooter / Type: iPhone Game / Requirements: iPhoneOS „
Recently I reviewed Radiant, a game which sought to recreate an 80s style retro shoot 'em-up on the iPhone. Although it was a decent effort in some ways, it was rather spoiled by sluggish gameplay and ropey collision detection.
Continuing the retro theme, Super Laser takes into the 90s with this vertically scrolling shoot 'em up. You probably know the minimalist plot off by heart already...Alien invasion... Lone spaceship...Only you can save mankind blah blah blah. In other words, get out there, fly up the screen and blast as many of those pesky aliens to smithereens as you can.
The first thing that will strike you about Super Laser are the gorgeous graphics. They might be small, but they are perfectly formed. From the initial static cut-scenes during the loading process through to the level of detail on the aliens, everything is superb. Although retro in style, the graphics utilise the capabilities of the iPhone's screen well and are sharp and crisply defined. Aliens, bullets and obstacles are all easy to spot so there's no excuse for dying (which you will; and often).
There's also a pleasing amount of variety to the aliens and clearly a lot of effort has been put into their design. This is not simply a case of the same sprites being regularly re-used throughout a level; new ones are introduced on a very regular basis. In true 90s fashion there are some impressive (and tough!) end of level bosses, which are so nice to look at, it seems a shame to destroy them! The background scenery also changes often so you get a genuine sense of progression as you move through the levels. They capture the 16 bit feel of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga perfectly, without appearing dated.
Sound is equally impressive and well-suited to the game's frenetic shooting action. A strong, bass-heavy tune accompanies the main action, and this really gets the adrenalin flowing. Sound effects are mostly limited to the sound of laser fire and explosions, but these are well implemented and suitably meaty. There are some iPhone game's I play with the sound permanently down. This isn't one of them. The only way to play it is with that volume cranked up to 11.
Thankfully, Super Laser delivers in the main area that let Radiant down - the gameplay. It is frighteningly addictive. There's something so satisfying about blasting the aliens (no matter how pretty they look) and the difficulty level is well judged. Like all 90s shooters, it's tough and will test your skills and reactions, which some gamers might find frustrating. But as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect and the more time you invest in this game, the better you will get. Aliens attack in pre-determined waves, so that you can learn their attack patterns, move into position to anticipate where they will appear and learn from that mistake that killed you last time. As a result you progress just that little bit further with each game you play, and every time you die, you immediately hit restart to see what's just around the corner.
Each level is also packed with additional weapons and items to be collected, something which introduces a strategic element: do you move up the screen for that power-up which will improve your firepower but put you at risk, or do you stay in the at the bottom of the screen in relative safety but risk coming up against an end of level bosses with limited firepower? This risk-and-reward makes the game quite a bit deeper than it might suggest on first glance and contributes to its addictive nature.
As already noted, the difficulty level is high and there are plenty of levels to conquer, so this is a title with plenty of long term challenge. Even when you've beaten it once, you can replay it on the higher difficulty level or, since Super Laser is an unashamed score attack game, try and smash your own high score.
Controls have also been well-thought out, with a choice of three different control methods so you can pick the one that works best for you. All of these work reasonably well and offer a strong degree of control over your ship, although personally I'd recommend sticking with the default option.
This is simplicity itself and involves simply dragging your finger across the screen; the ship will follow your finger's movements, whilst firing is automatic. Using this method, your little craft is highly responsive and, you will soon be able to weave yourself through the smallest of gaps to avoid contact with the enemy. I do find that after a while my finger starts to ache from the constant movement, which can place a limit on my gaming sessions as I need time to recover from the dangers of RSI and cramp!
The second method is to use the accelerometer. This is OK, although there is the usual issue of knowing exactly how far to tilt the screen to get your ship to move, whilst still being able to see the screen. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of accelerometer based games, certainly not in fast-paced blasters like this one.
The final method is the inevitable "virtual joystick." Although better implemented than on some games there is still the usual problem that it is all too easy for your finger to slip off the joystick, leaving you at the mercy of those marauding aliens. I also found that occasionally the joystick didn't respond quickly enough to my movement which was frustrating.
There were a few performance issues, presumably due to the demands that the fast-paced action places on the iPhone's (relatively) limited processing power. Sometimes the game would freeze for a few seconds or the frame rate would become jerky and sluggish. This doesn't happen too often though, and as updates have been released they have definitely become fewer in number.
So, if you're a fan of frenetic blasting action typical of the 16 bit era, then Super Laser is a real blast from the past (pun definitely intended!). Games like this used to cost around £30; Super Laser can be downloaded for just 59p. Now that's progress!
© Copyright SWSt 2011