Shakespeare in space would probably look like this.
First there where the Montagues and the Capulets, and now it is the Parints and Marcabians. Feuds have always been at the forefront of humanity, and now that fact has been seen among the oxes as well. Set in a world where a thumb wasn’t needed to evolve the ox has surpassed humanity in technology. Powered by blue stars of Caprichoso, or red hearts of Garantido you are the first line of offense.
Super Ox Wars is a shoot em´up in the most classic sense of the word. A vertical scroller set in space with bullet hell bonanza. What makes the game special from most other attempts recently is the fact that it is crafted by Jeff Minter, and Llamasoft. The art style, subject matter and overall tongue in check weirdness make it a pleasure to play. Do I get what is going on at all times? Nope, no clue. Do I care that I don’t understand everything? Nope, not at all. All I know is that I am an ox in a spaceship blasting giant eyes, World War II bombers and collecting hearts or stars.
The controls are touch based relative to the position of the ship. Just touch anywhere on the screen, and that becomes the base for the controls until you lift your finger. The ship fires automatically, and all you have to focus on is movement. Not always a simple task when there is a lot going on. At times the controls can feel a bit slow, or rather the ship feels sluggish. But the again you are controlling a craft controlled by an ox. Hello, no thumbs!
There is some colour coded mechanics going on depending on if you are collecting hearts or stars. As far as I can tell both colours hurt the enemies, and it is more a matter of upgrading the weaponry to your personal liking. Stars are fired forwards in a offensive manner while the hearts are more defensive circling the ship, and homing in on enemies. Most of the gameplay revolves around surviving an ever-increasing barrage of enemy fire, obstacles that can’t be destroyed and suicidal ships trying to smash you. It does get really intense, and combined with the Minter presentation it can get immersive.
There are ten levels available, and those ninja players will beat them quite easily making it a high score arcade game. For us slow reaction players(old people) the game is more about just completing a level at a time. You are free to start on any level you have reached, but with limited resources.
Game Center is used for high scores, and achievements. There are quite a few of challenging goals for those who crave completed achievements in life.
The presentation is retro in a special retro style that I don’t really remember from the games of my youth. It is retro-chic with an affinity for oxes, minotaurs and general weirdness. There are quite a few objects in space not supposed to be there. I have played every game Llamasoft have released for iOS, and as such I must say that Super Ox Wars is quite toned down. Goat Up! has a much more psychedelic style not found in Super Ox Wars. So compared to other Minter games it feels a bit simple, but compared to the usual space shoot em´ up shooter it feels really fresh. Actually it is the first shmup I have felt completely in tune with since the awesome Space Invaders – Infinity Gene.
The game is universal, and hence run well on both the iPad, and iPhone. I prefer playing it on the larger screen, but that also means that the retro art looks a bit bloated. I am not sure if there is retina resolution or not, but it certainly doesn’t look like it is.
There is only one real downer in Super Ox Wars, and that is quite a big one for the genre. There is no actual music, and the sound effects alone aren’t enough to convey the action. A thumping soundtrack in tune with the action would have been a real asset. Now I play using my own music as backdrop, and while that works with some old-school metal or wicked dubstep a Rez mechanic would enhance the game significantly.
Super Ox Wars is another quality title from the team that goes where no man, but only llamas dare to thread: Llamasoft. The action, controls and subject matter are all present. What it lacks is not being extreme enough in the way out there department, and a proper soundtrack. Still it is a breath of fresh air for a genre that hasn’t evolved much since Midway 1942, and Ikaruga.
Super Ox Wars $1.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Llamasoft Ltd.