Surface to Air Mayhem – Review

Review by Nigel Wood

The iPhone is becoming a haven for arcade classics, we have originals such as Pac Man, updates such as Super breakout deluxe and clones like Tempest-like Vector blaster and Space Invader wannabe Space invasion. Now we have Surface to air mayhem by Iron Square, a clone of the much loved Missile Command.

Released into Arcades in the 1980s, Missile Command was an instant classic. The game’s mission was simple: protect your bases from enemy bombardment. You were in command of a battery of missiles, which you fired into the path of the incoming enemy missiles. Wherever you placed your crosshairs and fired, would be where the missile would detonate. The skill came from positioning your crosshairs so that your missile could take out as many enemy missiles in one shot.

War! Yeah? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again...ooooh!...

So, how does Surface to air mayhem (SAM) play in comparison. Short answer! Great! it takes what’s great about missile command and adds some crisp graphics, great sound, perfect controls, spices up the gameplay… and the icing on the cake: online leaderboards!

Let’s start with the way it plays. The original arcade missile command used a trackball to control the cursor, which was a perfect way to control the crosshairs at the time. SAM uses simple multi touch tap controls, which I have to say works even better, allowing you to rapidly fire off multiple missiles to multiple locations. In later levels as more and more planes deliver their load it can get pretty hectic, requiring you to think fast and tap, while balancing this with aiming strategy and your limited ammo. The “mayhem” of the title comes into play when things get too much. You can shake the iPhone and your turret will enter Mayhem mode, allowing you to unleash super powered rockets at a quicker rate making it easier to clear the skies. As well as mayhem mode, power-ups fall from sky, temporarily upgrading your missiles with speed boosts and firepower. Enemies come in various shapes and sizes, from regular bombers which are slow and easy to take down, to fast fighter bombers which shoot across the screen and fire more manouverable homing missiles which are difficult to judge.

The game is over when your bases are destroyed, once this happens you are given the opportunity to post your score to the online leaderboards. This is a welcome addition and recreates the arcade… where beating a strangers score was a great feeling.

Now onto the graphics. It’s not really hard to beat the original on this front, which consisted of blocky pixels shooting down other block pixels. But even so, this version looks very nice indeed. It’s all in 2D but features crisp military artwork, and some good object animation. The backgrounds are detailed, and while the skies change from day to night, some animation in these backgrounds would be nice… perhaps some far off flashes to indicate this battle is part of a greater conflict.

The sound in this game really adds to the atmosphere, featuring some great bass-ey explosion and launch effects. The beginning of each level is marked by the wail of an air-raid siren which gives a strong feeling of dread for the impending attack. These sound effects deserve to be heared through high quality headphones to appreciate the full effect. There is no music during play, but a fitting Call of duty-esque score plays during the start/menu screen.

Overall this is a great version of an arcade classic, and a fun pick up and play title for those boring journeys to work. For $2.99 (£1.79) it’s a steal, a must for any fans of the original, and recommended for anyone who wants a simple burst of adrenalin fuelled action.


Presentation & Graphics: 7

Crisp graphics with a fitting brushed metal style military look and feel. Added animation in the backgrounds would add to the atmosphere though.


Sound: 8

High quality sound effects of sirens and explosions make for an intense atmosphere.

Gameplay: 8

The classic missile command gameplay lives on, with the addition of shake enabled Mayhem mode, missile power-ups and online leaderboards.


Game life:  7

65 levels will need some dedication to beat, and the online leaderboards jelp to fuel that dedication. For most though it’s best as a quick pick up and play title and for that reason it will likely grace your home-screen for the foreseeable future.


Game rating: 8


Surface to air Mayhem is available now for $2.99 (£1.79) here.

TwitterFacebookGoogle BookmarksDiggStumbleUponShare

Comments are closed.