Arc Squadron launched on the App Store today, summoning many memories for old-school Star Fox players. The on-rails space-themed shooter game takes players through a variety of treacherous interstellar scenarios, who must guide a variety of ships through obstacles with smooth and natural-feeling swipe-gestures, while unloading advanced weaponry and technology against the foes they encounter.
Steering your ship is as easy as dragging your finger around the screen. As your ship moves, so do the crosshairs, and if they rest on top of an enemy, you'll automatically start shooting. Secondary weapons and equipment are activated through taps, while you can get an extra bit of maneuverability with sideways swipes to execute barrel rolls. I was really impressed with the implementation of touch controls here, and was extremely happy that there wasn't some bastardized version of joystick controls. Controls are simple, intuitive, and allow players to focus on the challenging gameplay.
Each level is scored out of four stars, depending on how many of the level's enemies you blow up, how much damage you take, and how many of the bonus cubes you pick up. Currency is earned for destroying alien ships or bought through in-app purchases. Those Arcbucks are used to buy new ships and secondary weapons, upgrade existing ones, or get one of the many different paint jobs available. The upgrade structure is really nicely streamlined and not too complicated while still offering a solid amount of tactical variety. Though level progression is fairly linear, there are a handful of branching bonus missions that aren't required in order to move along in the storyline. As linear as the gameplay may be, there's an obscene amount of levels to chew through - don't count on finishing this game any time soon. The game's replay value is stunted a little bit by the scripted nature of the combat encounters, but if you're the type of player that loves really digging in on a level and memorizing each tiny little detail of a stage and meeting those challenges flawlessly, there's definitely plenty of opportunity in Arc Squadron.
Game Center support extends as far as leaderboards among your buddies and tracking various achievements, though Arc Squadron itself keeps close tabs on specific stats, like how many of the total stars you've collected, how many enemies you've killed, and even how many barrel rolls you've made. No love on cloud saving unfortunately, so be sure to pick iPad or iPhone before you get started. The graphics and audio are both top-notch, and well-suited for the arcade feel the devs are going for. The soundtrack has an amply sci-fi feel, while effects are well-timed, electric, and diverse. The voice acting, though a bit hammed-up, is well done. UI elements are all large, bold, and readable. The wide range of fantastic weaponry and settings produce a bunch of exciting lighting effects, but by far the most impressive part of the game's graphics are the stages. They're all crafted with a rich amount of detail, and despite it all happening in space-themed regions, there's ample visual variety.
All in all, Arc Squadron has excellent graphics, smooth controls, tight, twitch-based challenges, and heaps of compelling upgrades. Pick this up for $0.99 before the price goes up to a regular $4.99.
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Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.