The Red Star – review

XS Games bring their port of the PS2 action shooter to iPhone and iPod touch…

Originally due for release on PS2 and Xbox in 2002, the game was shelved when Acclaim went bankrupt. But, through XS Games, it was finally released on the PS2 in 2007.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, The Red Star takes place in a parallel Russia where magic and technology combine and war rages on. There are three characters playable, with two unlocked at the start. And it is your goal to defend your faction from attack by the Red Fleet.

433036_3At the start of each mission you are briefed by your commander Urik, these help set the scene, though unless you are a fan of the Comics the story is a little vague. Basically, in each level you must destroy the attacking forces before moving onto the next. Each level though is a hectic experience featuring not only various types of foot soldiers, but also multiple boss battles and set pieces.

I was surprised by how deep the fighting mechanic was in the game, I was expecting a run and gun shooter, but instead you have to be quite strategic and patient with your attacks. Each character has a melee attack and a gun attack assigned to two touch buttons on the right of the screen. Two other buttons are available too, which allow you to unleashed magic power, accumilated through successful combos, as well as a shield for deflecting in coming attacks. For character control you use the now common virtual analogue stick on the left of the screen. Each chracter has a few special attacks too, which can be activated by tapping and holding the screen to get a lock on your enemy, and then moving towards tehm while holding your melee or weapon button. They can be tricky to piull off art first, but when you do they unleashed far more damage on you opponents. Generally you will be battling with sword wielding soldiers, but occasionally the game will throw tougher opponents into the mix. The game becomes as much as a brawler as a shooter, with many opponents immune to gun attack, and so requiring melee attacks instead. This involves getting up close and personal and, if you are not careful, can end your game pretty early.

Visually, the game looks great. The art style is very industrial in look and tone, with muted colours of grey and red, melded with pipes and steel mesh. The geometry is a little blocky here and there, particularly in the character models… but in motion its barely noticeable. I tested the game on both a 3GS and an iPhone 4, and despite some slowdown during intense battles, the game runs smoothly for the most part.

433036_2The levels themselves are presented in full 3D, but generally take place in a sidescrolling side view. Your character can move in and out of the screen as well as left to right, so it’s purely how the game frames the action. Occasionally, the game shifts its perspective to a top down or front facing view, this often happens during the many boss battles you will encounter. Large gunships or tanks will appear on screen throwing all manner of artillery at you, this is where the shooter element comes in full force as you manically shoot to take out their weak spots.

Where this game gets crazy is that once you’ve defeated the boss, the level is still not over. If you are lucky you’ll get a med-pack to boost your health, but then it’s back into the fray with more enemies and another boss battle or two. The gameplay is pretty intense, and it won’t be uncommon to get very close to the end of the level and then die. Alas, the game throws you right back to the beginning of the level, which can be both tiring and frustrating.

My main issue with Red Star is that it’s another case of a console experience not being tweaked for a mobile device. The lack of checkpoints in a level, and the fact that you cannot resume where you left off (should you get a call midway through playing) is a major niggle. Hopefully when Game Center is released from Apple, this kind of ommission will be a thing of the past and we will always be able to resume a game from any point.

Despite those problems though this is a great action title offering an intense mix of fighting, shooting and adventure. However, casual gamers beware!… this is hardcore through and through.


The Red Star is out now for $4.99 and available on the Red, a lite version is also available which I would recommend you try first.

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  • Nathan Mustafa, USA

    Somehow I thought this game was a Defcon clone.