The iPhone's best shooter is oddly enough not one of its greatest games.
Normally, we're all over games with stylish graphics, especially when said games are cool looking space shooters. Because of its controls, however, we didn't fall madly in love with Blue Attack!, the latest from iPhone developer John Kooistra. Released this week, the game casts you as a tiny blue spaceship charged with protecting a humongous carrier from red-faced baddies and their army of ovals. It's a pretty shooter with loads of options, but it failed to grab our interests for very long. Good? Sure. One of the iPhone's must haves? Meh.
It certainly looks impressive, with its outer space background and neon visuals, so if anything, you'll always have someone looking over your shoulder. As for content, the game stretches your $1.99 with plenty of action, whether you go with the Infinite mode (see how long you can last against swarms of bad guys) or the Campaign, an interstellar romp that sends you from planet to planet. Regardless of which one you choose, the gameplay remains the same, as you exit the carrier (your mother ship) with the option of partnering up with several wingmen that boost your firepower. Even better, you can order them to change formation (phalanx, claw) to change the patterns of fire. In addition, you have a limited number of bombs that'll destroy anything within the blast radius, despite the action slowing to a crawl; the game cannot handle enormous explosions. All of these options (adjusting formation, bombs, number of wingmen) are easily accessible on the iPhone's screen during play. Simply press the icon and you're good to go.
In between levels, you have the option of manually upgrading your ship or letting the game do it for you. Enhancements include speed boosts, increased ship and turn speed, bomb power and number of guns, among other useful things. This gives the game a role-playing vibe that greatly enhances the experience.
Blue Attack! has two control schemes, neither of which offer precision targeting. The default method allows you to maneuver your ship by tilting the iPhone. While it works all right in wide-open spaces, it's difficult to use when zipping between enemies because you'll almost always bump into something. If that doesn't suit you, there's the touch control method where you drag your finger across the screen, but doing this partially obscures your view.
After dying, you can upload your scores to an online leaderboard, but unless you crack the top ten best players list, you'll never see your ranking. It's possible that we missed something, but even if we did, that falls on the designer for not making it easily accessible.
It's weird, because at first glance, we thought Blue Attack! was going to be one of the iPhone's sweetest apps, but we never grew addicted to it. Instead, it became a fancy tech demo to whip out and show friends, something that validates the iPhone's existence as a game system. Is it fun? Sure. We just failed to make a connection, but for $1.99, you should give it a chance.
What's Hot: Dazzling neon graphics, cool ship upgrades, online leaderboard, two control schemes.
What's Not: Online leaderboard doesn't show our world rank, explosions slow the game down, imprecise controls.