Star Marine: Infinite Ammo
As the old saying goes, the only good robot is a dead one.
Contra for iPhone. That's essentially the gist of Star Marine: Infinite Ammo, the latest from Destructopus developer, GlitchSoft. Bathed in nostalgia, this 2D side scrolling blast fest puts you in control of a one-man army out to destroy enemy robots big and small with an impressive arsenal of guns, but you don't need the famous Konami Code to get the job done. Just gems. Lots and lots of gems.
Designed to look and play like a classic NES game, Star Marine sends the hero, Arc, through eleven stages of robot shooting madness. You start off with the standard issue Assault Rifle, and over time, gain access to six other weapons that run the proverbial gamut, from the spread firing Crippler to the flame throwing Combustor, along with a grenade launcher, ion cannon and other cool toys, all of which are upgradeable; rapid fire on the Assault Rifle, for instance.
In addition, you're able to upgrade Arc to make him a more efficient killing machine, adding perks, armor and new maneuvers. There's even an all-powerful nuke that, when activated, destroys everything on screen.
Thing is, all this stuff costs virtual money, or gems, and to get these precious stones, you'll need to play through the same levels obsessively, buy them outright via in-app purchase or watch the same ad for Zynga's Dream Zoo again and again (this only produces one gem per view). It drove us crazy, but we went with the latter.
We can debate whether forcing players to grind was smart. Beyond that, though, Star Marine is one heck of a good time. Here we have a Contra style game for the iPhone rich with detailed sprites, unique environments (a spaceship, jungle), bosses that clog the screen and explosions aplenty.
Controlling Arc, thankfully is simple enough, with two virtual thumb sticks, one for both running and shooting. We just wish the fire stick let us shoot a full 360 degrees instead of eight-way directional aiming.
As for bonuses, the developers shoved 80 in-game challenges into Star Marine, along with 30 achievements through Game Center (you also have leaderboards). And if you manage to complete the main quest, there's Boss Rush and Survival modes to keep you busy.
The biggest gripe, though, involves the conspicuous lack of iPad support. You can play the game on Apple's tablet, but you'll need to blow it up, thus making the visuals even more pixelated. At least on the positive side, those 2D graphics don't look terrible magnified.
That aside, Star Marine: Infinite Ammo satisfies the need for an arcade style shooter on the iPhone, delivering all the big guns, nasty bad guys and the grizzled hero one would expect. With that, grab that Ion Torch and come out firing.
Review code provided by GlitchSoft.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
What's Hot: Furious Contra style experience, retro graphics, seven unique weapons, upgrades, in-game challenges, Game Center achievements and leaderboards.
What's Not: No full screen iPad support, grinding to acquire gems.