StarSmasher review

Review by Nigel Wood

Created by John Bowers of Espressosoft, StarSmasher is the first true 3D space shoot’em up for iphone.

The game see you piloting a space fighter through a never ending onslaught of asteroids and enemy ships. In true arcade style your task is to stay alive and accumulate the highest score possible.

Controls are simple. Manoeuvre your ship up, down, left and right using the tilt function of the iphone and tap the screen to fire (a recent update 1.0.1 addresses repetitive single tapping with an auto fire by holding a finger or thumb on the screen). I found controlling the ship a little cumbersome. At times it wasn’t easy to re-centre the ships position, and it’s slow to react to tilt motions. Firing the laser is responsive, but due to the ships slow responsiveness, landing a shot can be a bit of a fluke. 

The graphics are very simple, featuring a static starfield background, low poly spacecraft and cloned asteroids. The art style is reminiscent of Star Fox for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), albeit with crisper textures. Star Fox featured numerous levels with changing worlds and sweeping landscapes, but StarSmasher contains only one continuous level, which may put off some gamers looking for a deep immersive shooter. 

For the price, its difficult to complain about this games shortcomings, but I feel this is more of a technical demo than a fully fledged game, and so have rated it accordingly. John promises more features in future updates, so I would only advise purchasing if you like old-school arcade shooters. But if you were expecting something a little deeper in gameplay then, for now at least, you’ll need to look elsewhere.


Presentation and graphics: 3

Just a tap from the static art on the start screen and you are in the game. No menu or high score table, yet! Artstyle harkens back to the good old days of Star Fox, but that’s where the similarities end. Features crisp and bright textures, but low poly models, repetitive enemies and an inconsistent frame rate hurts the game.


Sound: 3

No music and minimal sound, with an off-putting stereo effect from the ships thrusters through headphones. The laser and explosion sounds are good though.


Gameplay: 5

Shoot stuff, stay alive and try to beat your previous score (if you can remember what it was!) That’s it. Some people may like it’s simple, pick up and playability however.


Game life: 2

With one continuous level, little variation in the challenge, and no way to track your high scores, this game will get old… quick!


Final iPGN Rating: 4/10

Last word

With it being hyped as Star Fox for the iPhone, and with comparisons to Apple’s own space game demo shown at the iPhone SDK event, it’s hard for StarSmasher to live up to expectations. However, I have to give an A+ to John Bowers for making the first attempt at a 3D shooter for iPhone, but unfortunately this is really just a tech demo and nothing more. There is promise here, and I’m interested to see what John can do with more time and a bigger budget. You can purchase StarSmasher here: App Store >

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  • John Bowers

    I would love to hear what you think of the latest update. I tried to incorporate a lot of the feedback that I received both from reviewers and from my users. I think the 1.1 version represents a much better game and is worthy of a re-review.