Since the dawn of video games, shooting things in space has been a gigantic part of our chosen pastime. From the simple gameplay of Space Invaders to the bullet hell of Ikaruga, Do Don Pachi and it’s ilk; these games are built to test and challenge the reflexes of players everywhere. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that mobile devices are becoming a suitable home for shmup gamers to get their fix, and Arc War is Hunted Cow Studios’ take on mixing the age-old scrolling shmup with the trend in “endless” games.
As is customary in intergalactic space battles, Earth is under attack from a vicious fleet of alien nasties, and for some reason the planet’s governments are really short on resources, so it’s down to just one pilot to take down an entire army in a tiny little ship.
Unlike a typical scrolling shooter, Arc Wars isn’t split into levels. Instead, you tackle an uninterrupted flow of infinite waves until you either lose all your lives, or get bored. Unfortunately, boredom is probably the most likely reason for putting your device down, as things get very repetitive, very quickly. You quickly realise that you’ll be fighting in the exact same scrolling environment, occasionally picking up the same power-ups and using them against the same enemies and bosses. In fact, most of the enemy ships and bosses are mere palette-swaps of each other, that occasionally shoot different types of bullets at you.
Arc War’s biggest problem is that for an endless game to work, it really needs to consistently offer something new. In this case, you’ve seen everything in the first ten minutes and there is no real reason to keep playing. Getting further before dying will earn XP and increase your pilot level, but you don’t appear to actually unlock anything for reaching higher levels, so what’s the point?
But what it lacks in variety and thrills, it at least delivers somewhat in terms of mechanics. Thankfully, a variety of controls are available, from GamePad support to dragging your ship across the screen, complete with the option to change the sensitivity. Unfortunately, there’s no option for your ship to auto-fire, so you only seem to fire while your moving, which is a little irritating as there is no reason to not be firing constantly.
It just feels a bit like a proof of concept for a basic shmup game. Ship and enemy designs are pretty uninspired, and it’s dull to keep facing the same palette-swapped enemies over and over again, against the exact same background. It’s also very puzzling that in a vertically scrolling shooter, landscape screen orientation has been used. The few music tracks in the game sound like decently authentic early 90’s shmup fare, but could have done with a few more of them to keep things interesting.
VERDICT: With this particular genre being so old and established, just delivering the basic mechanics isn’t enough. Classic shooters need variety, excitement, excellent presentation, and more than a couple of power-ups. Arc War brings none of these things to the table. Fans of the genre are better off downloading the (admittedly) pricier iOS ports of Cave’s excellent shooters like DeathSmiles and DoDonPachi Resurrection, or Dotemu’s R-Type ports, for a look at how this type of game should be done.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.