Sluggish controls let down an otherwise fine arcade shooter.
As with the best shoot 'em ups, there's very little need to lay out an interesting narrative or give too much introduction to the story. What we want is bullets, and a hell of a lot of them, preferably spewing forth from every orifice of an outlandish variety of multi-limbed robotic and organic enemies.
So it is with Blazing Star, SNK Playmore's latest game to arrive on the App Store, following hot in the heels of Metal Slug 3. To dispense this apocalyptic justice, you're given the option of flying one of six ships, some of which are more defense-orientated, while others pack in extra firepower, although perhaps at the expense of speed.
All of the action plays out on a series of 2D maps, as you do battle with swarms of enemies that fire an endless list of unpleasantness at you, from over-sized rockets that need to be tackled immediately, to smaller, but equally deadly insect-like enemies that favor agility over raw power.
To counter the threat, you gather no end of power-ups from the enemies you destroy, gradually upgrading your ship from a rather basic artillery unit to a fully-fledged harbinger of death that spits out homing missiles and multi-directional machine-gun fire.
Unless you want your thumb to be in a splint for the next six months, do not even think about trying to play Blazing Star using the virtual joystick option. It may seem like the natural position to assume, but you'll have to constantly stretch and re-center your thumb to stay on top of the action.
Instead, lay it down flat and pop your fingers down vertically to swipe the ship around the screen, although even then the feel is still very sluggish. This becomes doubly vexatious when facing the boss enemies, who of course spit out a furious assortment of bombs, orbs, bullets and beams which will take out your fragile ship with just one hit.
Awkward controls aside, we had some fun with Blazing Star. It's a fast-paced, meaty shooter that will no doubt satisfy the old-school arcade gamer, and it's a solid port of the original game to boot. The chance to revisit old favorites is one of the things we love most about mobile gaming, but given the progress that lesser studios have made with touchscreen controls, there really is no excuse for not making a better fist of things.
What's Hot: A classic shooter with exactly the kind of frantic firepower pace you'd want from the genre.
What's Not: Dodgy controls are becoming something of a bad habit for these NeoGeo ports.