Reviews

3D Space games: tri-review

In this ‘quick’ review feature, we look at three 3D space shooters: Zone Warrior, Star Smasher 1.1 and Solar Blaster… and pick a winner.

 

Zone Warrior

Zone warrior by UK based developer Horsham Online is a new release and a first person space shooter. It reminds me very much of the epic 3D space game Elite (the later polygonal version on the Archimedes, not the wireframe BBC micro version). From the polygonal ship designs, the radar layout and the rotating space station docking sequences it all feels very familiar, of course that’s not a bad thing as Elite was a great game.

Elite, an epic 3D space classic!

Elite, an epic 3D space classic!

That’s where the similarities end though. At it’s core Zone warrior is a simple action shooter. It’s your task to protect your space station from attacks by asteroids and battleships. You launch out of your station and into space where you have full 3D freedom to fly around. The first few levels are pretty easy, simply dispense of the asteroids approaching your base. Later levels get trickier with the introduction of small fighters and larger battleships. When you have cleared a level you must dock you ship with the space station, if everything went according to plan the tractor beam will dot he work for you, but should your base get damaged then you’ll have to fly in manually. If either you or your base are destroyed then it’s game over. The controls work very well. Tilt forward to dive, back to climb. Tilt left to right to turn and tap the onscreen icons to fire lasers and homing missiles. There’s also a plus and minus icon for contrling speed. During the action your roll controls are locked horizontally, I guess this makes it easier to stay level but I’d prefer full freedom of control just like a flight simulator. When it comes to docking though, roll controls are activated, allowing you to match your angle with the rotating docking port on the space station. There is some skill to this, and luckily there is a docking practice mode for novices.

 

Zone Warrior: Defend your space station at all costs

I love the graphics to the this game, yes the models are low polygon and low in texture quality. But as I said before they remind me of the retro games like Elite and descent. The space backgrounds are nicely detailed, as are the planets. And when you destroy an object it emits a ringed explosion to great effect.

Overall it’s a great game with a good challenge that will keep you coming back for more. At $3.99 it’s the most expensive of the three, but it’s also the deepest as far as gameplay and gamelife go. On a personal note I’m hoping that the developer will use this game engine to create a true Elite clone, fingers crossed!

 

Star smasher 1.1

Back in August I reviewed this game giving it a 4/10 (old scoring system). I concluded that the game was a mere technical demo. However, since then the game has been updated to 1.1 with some improvements to the core gameplay. I wouldn’t usually revisit a review as I think the game released for sale should be as good as it can be with only updates used to fix the odd bug or two that slipped past the beta testing. But as it was early on in the iPhones life, and to compare it fairly to the other two 3D space games reviewed in this article, I’m going to make an exception.

For the original review click here.

Before, the game was a basic survivor game with you shooting endless waves of asteroids and the odd battleship. While the game did look good it was a shallow experience. However, with the 1.1 update came a welcome game mode called Energy Monger. This mode requires you to pick up blue and gold energy orbs, where collecting the required amount for each level allows you to progress to the next. You still need to avoid the asteroids and and enemy ships, but the addition of levels with an objective makes this version of the game far more appealing. You can still access the original mode, now called ‘free flight’ but I wouldn’t recommend it. Graphics-wise it looks similar to before, but the framerate is smoother. Sound is also improved with better effects and added music to the energy monger levels. Overall it’s more polished, it’s just a shame the developer didn’t wait to release this version instead of the first release. Star Smasher is available for $2.99


(originally a 4/10 which translates as 2 stars)

 

Solar Blaster

Created by Neon Surge, and not to be confused with the top down shooter Stellar Blaster, ‘Solar blaster’ is the cheapest of the three… but also the most shallow. Best compared to the Millenium Falcon shoot out with the Tie Fighters in Star Wars: A new hope, the game sees you strapped into a starships’ turret. Your task is to shoot down wave after wave of oncoming enemy ships. Movement is tilt based, tilt up, down, left and right to aim your reticule and tap on the Fire button on the bottom right of the screen. There are three weapon types: Blaster, Lasers and Rail gun. The blaster is your standard fair, but it’s the laser and rail gun that are the most fun. With teh laser the longer you hold down the fire button before releasing, the more powerful it becomes, tearing through enemies with ease. The rail gun is also powerful, again you must power it up by holding down fire, except you keep fire held down to unleash a hail of bullets.

There is only one level, and once the time limit runs down… kit’s game over. As a nice touch it does feature an online leader board, so you can challenge friends.

Considering the gameplay simplicity, the graphics are pretty good. The HUD looks great, the gun effects and explosions look really cool, but the enemy ships let it down. Modelled to look like the Borg-cubes and Borg-sphere’s from Star Trek, they are uninspired and feature muddy textures.

Solar Blaster is fun diversion best for quick pick up and play sessions, and at $0.99 it’s good value.

 

Winner: Zone Warrior

Yes it’s the most expensive, but with it’s deeper gameplay, retro graphics and effects, this 3D shooter is guaranteed a longer lifetime on your iPhone’s home-screen.

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  • Jindo Fox

    That’s a good roundup of the first 3 big space games. The iPhone has perfect controls for this type of game and I hope we see even more. There are already more games like this than on the “big-boy” consoles. Some others I’ve enjoyed:

    - SciFly Dogfight: a bit of Starfox 64′s melee mode in your pocket, with unlockable ships and planets. A-

    - BiiPlane: Slick Pilotwings-like graphics but little more than an innertube-shaped obstacle course. B-

    - Nanosaur 2: As close as we get to Rogue Squadron on the iPhone, at least for now. A

    - Venger: Like Starblade or Zaxxon 3D, but with better graphics and controls. A

    - Space Rage 3d: This turd seems to have been pulled from the store, no great loss there. F

    Not quite “games,” but evidence that the hardware is capable of smooth flight engines:

    - Wings: Nice little zone-out relaxation toy. C+

    - X-Plane: Lovely pocket flight sim with lots of detail and frequent updates. A

  • iPGN-Nige

    Yes, I was going to include space rage 3d but it disappeared. Not sure why!

  • Mat

    Space Rage seems to be back now with a massive update. I really like this game now!

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