Twinkle, twinkle Blazing Star
With the amount of arcade shooters I’ve been reviewing recently, you’d think I absolutely loved them (Raystorm, Rayforce, Mutant Storm, Mutant Stormray Shootforce). I won’t go into detail about how arcade shooters make me feel (scared), because if you’re a loyal TG reader, you’ll know by now exactly how they make me feel (scared).
So my next endeavour is with SNK’s Blazing Star, which sounds more like an MTV talent contest than a shooting game. It’s a classic side-scrolling NeoGeo title in the same vein as the above mentioned games (except Mutant Stormray Shootforce, I made that up), which means you take control of a pixelated ship floating through air and space, attempting to bazooka alien aircraft with your colourful lasers, while simultaneously restraining yourself from lighting your iPhone on fire because arcade shooters are too hard.
But I’ve been warned I need to judge these games on merit, so I won’t end the review there. There’s also something called a Word Count I need to take heed of. Apparently my 37 word review of a sprawling iOS RPG last week was rejected because it wasn’t ‘in depth’ enough.
The game begins with a great intro sequence featuring the type of fantastically melodramatic elctro-pop you can only find in a Japanese old-school game, complete with character stills sliding in and out of shot like a 70’s cop show. All it’s missing is the ‘Featuring!’ and ‘With special guest!’ captions.
I’m not too sure what the storyline is, but judging from the opening credits it’s something to do with huge men in mech suits, explosions and women with worryingly large breasts posing for the camera. Now I’m a man (I know this because my Wife buys me male underwear), so I can appreciate a hint of breast, but it’s most embarrassing when someone looks over your shoulder on the train to see what you’re playing. On a side note, now that I’ve typed the words ‘large breasts’ and ‘posing for the camera’ in this review, anyone searching naughty internet pictures may end up a little confused if Google does it’s job properly.
From the options menu which is another that employs an unnecessary double tap confirmation system, you choose one of six ships each controlled by a different character – or in the case of the vehicles controlled by women, a different set of breasts – and off to the skies you go. Each ship also has it’s own power type and speed level which makes them play slightly differently. It’s a welcome inclusion which stops them just being different coloured blobs, even if some of the obvious power types such as Offensive and Defensive are accompanied by bonkers choices such as ‘Difficult’. Presumably this is the ship within the group that refuses to fly because it doesn’t know what it’s motivation is.
It plays like an arcade shooter would, with a left side movement, right side shooting arrangement, and holding down the shoot button charges up your lasers to release a more powerful blast. I would’ve preferred the ability to tap anywhere on the right side of the screen to shoot though, in a game this frantic your thumbs can lose the placement of the buttons and end up catching air like an Emo skateboarder. To be fair, the options menu does allow you to customise your button placement which helps, but I’ve just spent a whole sentence complaining. I’m not about to contradict myself.
This title has the added quirk of being the first shooter I’ve played that actively insults you through in-game text (die and ‘Are you serious?’ pops up. Thanks.) The commentary also extends to ridiculous proportions in other areas; normally you can tell when you’ve grabbed a power-up in a game like this because your ship turns blue, or flashes or something. Here, as one floats onto the screen, the game will inform you ‘Wow, a power up appears!’ or ‘Get it more!’ I have no idea what ‘Get it more’ means, it sounds like a Nike T-shirt slogan. I can’t help but love the nonsense of it.
It’s also fast paced and busy. Possibly too busy. There are so many enemy ships and floating power-ups blended with your own lasers (which are beefy and satisfying to blast) that at times, there seems to be too much going on. Bad-guy aircraft often flies into view, performing a synchronised routine, then float straight past you. Shooting them down seems rude. You almost want to award them a score for their act.
Because of this, the game can feel like it’s playing itself, and the confusion isn’t helped by graphics which are considerably south of beautiful. Pixelated and grainy, they’re the type of visuals that remind you that the awe you felt while staring at them twenty years ago was due to the fact you were eight years old. A can of dog food would’ve had the same effect. Bosses are great though. They completely dwarf your ship and give you the sense of a titanic challenge when you meet them at the end of the level. It’s a shame none of the extra power of the iDevices has been harnessed to sharpen up the looks though.
Play modes include Arcade, which mimics the original; Mission Mode, where you can choose which level you want to die in first, and Bluetooth Multiplayer, which is multiplayer. With Bluetooth.
So if you’re not scared of Arcade Shooters like me, can handle grannies on the train commenting about the amount of scantily clad ladies, and fancy a quick blast of alien scum, this is another decent addition to the growing list of AppStore retro shooters. Get it more.
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Blazing Star is available now for £1.99 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Get it now on the