APP OF THE DAY: Wingbreaker review (iPhone)
Since Space Invaders the whole space-based shoot 'em up game category has had some corkin' titles out. Oh, wait a minute that was the 80s and 90s wasn't it? Wingbreaker takes the classic top-down shooter concept and brings it bang up to date with glorious graphics and difficulty that's like a punch to the face. It's got all the makings of a modern classic then...
We're big fans of playing side-scrolling - or even "up-scrolling" as is the case in Wingbreaker - games, but we've always played them with proper controllers on consoles. Whether Trevor McFur on the Jaguar or Tempest 2000 on the original Playstation. Such games just suit the format. On an iPhone or iPad screen, of course, all those fingers would just get in the way and spoil the view. Fortunate then that Wingbreaker's gone with the gyroscope-based movement system. Tilt your Apple device and your ship will follow. It adds an extra layer of difficulty to the game, but the on-screen ship is incredibly responsive to movements in all directions.
Wingbreaker begins with all the classics: shoot asteroids, shoot passive enemies, just shoot everything. But it quickly gets tougher - there will be swarms of enemies, including ones that shoot back when too close, as well as ones that can dodge your attacks or just happen take a heck of a lot of shooting to blow up.
It's the mass of enemies that's the classic sign of a good shooter. These games were never easy to progress. It's all about quick response and the need to dodge left and right, speed forward, as well as hold back. The shooting is almost secondary as it's never ending.
Certain enemies in Wingbreaker will throw out special weapons, such as railguns, shotguns, missiles and so forth, which once flown over will adhere to either your ship's left or right wing. As well as the usual front gun - which can also be upgraded to be more powerful - these extras can be fired off by a tap on the corresponding side of the Apple device's screen, but it's important to pay attention to how many special weapon bullets you happen to have left.
These guns aren't a staple, however. They're easy to lose: Knock into an enemy or object and - crunch - it's goodbye wing, weapon and all. It's pretty much goodbye chances of survival. It's easy to see where the title gets its name from. Wing "repair" comes in the form of, well, getting hold of yet more weapons to beef the ship back up.
A ship shield is also present, but it doesn't last out for that many strikes. Again, this isn't a limitless, lives-a-plenty kind of game. It's difficult, and when you land in a sea of bullets the chances are that you're a gonner.
As well as levels that advance in difficulty there's a non-stop Arcade option to choose from too. Both are good fun depending on whether you want to dip in and out for short play or test your skills to the max in a point-score-a-thon.
Wingbreaker is, at the time of writing, available for free from the iTunes store. It's too good a game to miss - go download it now and relive the essence of those classics in a current form.