Curse my opaque digits! “I am not angry at you… I am just disappointed.” That phrase so often uttered to delinquent children, accompanied with a bone withering glare, fully encompasses my thoughts on Helion. While Helion has potential, what may have been a good game is marred by a fundamental control issue. As I often tell myself, I cannot review potential, so as it stands Helion is a poor game.
The fundamentals of Helion are familiar enough, it is a sidescrolling shoot ‘em up in which enemies fly on screen in preset patterns. You play as a cross between a sun and a ship, using solar flares to ravage your enemies. The only thing stopping you from destroying them is their devious attack routines your inability to see the screen for the majority of the game. Shooting a solar flare (your single method of attack) requires that you not only hold a finger on the sun-ship, but also hold a finger where you would like to shoot. In this way, one ends up having both thumbs on screen for the duration of the level. If one simply sticks to the far end of the screen, this is not a big deal. Some patterns destroy this technique and require the player to move across screen. The second this happens, the screen is covered and you end up playing a horrible game of thumb-twister or trying to flip flop which thumb shoots and which moves the ship. Use of the latter strategy often results in fumbling, which by extension results in death. Most perplexing is how one manages to ‘kill’ a sun without also killing everything in sight.
From what I played, I could tell that Helion has the potential to be fun. The enemies’ attacks seem interesting and even tricky. All of the graphical flair parading in the background is a nice touch and unfortunately is often blocked from view. I enjoy the fact that the game scrolls left to right as a sort of slap in the face to convention. Additionally, the game felt like it was paced very well with the difficult enemies spaced far enough between the easier ones. Veterans of the genre will also appreciate the inclusion of some refreshing enemy types.
Sadly, once fingers cover screens all the potential in the world cannot help Helion. Ultimately one is trying to maneuver a large ship (a sun nonetheless) through waves of enemy fire and with an almost complete lack of visibility. It is for this reason that games like Space Invaders: Infinity Gene choose not to make one tap the screen with another finger to fire, and why tapping actual enemies to fire is completely out of the question. Honestly, had the game just asked the player to tap oncoming enemies the mechanic would have worked much better. The fact that one has to literally hold two fingers on screen at a time simply is not acceptable for this kind of game.
Still interested? Helion can be purchased on the app store for $1.99. At some point, I wanted to throw my iPod.