Assault Squadron in review – Take out the aliens high and low

I’m still on a quest to find the ultimate scrolling shooter for the iPhone, and so far my top choice doesn’t even have a full version available!  So the real question is – where does Assault Squadron rank in my search?  Well, it’s definitely not the ultimate shooter.  It’s fun, but a bit too short.  It also doesn’t push some of it’s concepts as far as it could.  I think there’s a lot of potential for the game, but at the moment it rises above but doesn’t tower over mediocrity.

Assault Squadron’s story is your standard “aliens attack the earth and you must defend it” type affair.  I do like the fact that you start off by taking out the aliens’ floating headquarters before dealing with the ground level assault – it’s sort of like the generic version of the Death Star battle.  Anyway, you fight two levels to destroy the mothership, then head down to the earth for another four to cleanse the alien infestation from Earth.  In a nice change of pace from most shooters, the game sports both horizontal and vertical scrolling levels, so you get the best of both worlds from that perspective.

Game play is pretty standard “blow up everything in sight”, and each ship has a primary and secondary weapon to accomplish this task, as well as bombs.  Primary weapons are fired automatically, secondary weapons are fired by holding down a big S in the bottom right corner of the screen, and bombs are used by pressing the B button or double tapping the screen.  Given the position of the B button, you’ll probably be tapping the action as well as the button.

There are four different possible controls schemes, but the only one I cared for was the mode where the ship travels to where your finger is pressed.  There is a similar mode that uses “relative” movement, but that didn’t flow well for me.  Tilt control saw my ship going all over the place, and the virtual joystick seemed too restrictive.  There are three ships to choose from with a fourth that can be unlocked.  Personally, other than one ship lasting longer than another, they didn’t seem to play much differently to me.  This seems to be a widespread problem with shooters that offer multiple ships, and I wish someone could figure out the key to making the gaming experience feel different depending on your choice.

The game sports three difficulty levels, but there needs to be better balance.  Casual is too easy, and the game can be completed in about 20 minutes if you don’t watch the cut scenes.  However, I found myself dying quite easily on Normal mode.  I didn’t even try Expert mode because I get embarrassed easily, even when I’m by myself.  Assault Squadron also either needs a few more levels or longer levels, because six short levels aren’t enough.

The graphics are really nice, most notably when it comes to the backgrounds.  I love how they tied the levels together, especially with having the defeated boss from the previous level show up in the background of the next level a couple of times.  The ship designs have an insect like motif, which was a nice change from the standard, but they should have done more with it.  Even if the designs wouldn’t have been practical, make them look cool.  That’s the great part about alien technology – we don’t need to understand it, we just want it to appear outrageous.  A couple more ship types would have been nice as well.

Sound effects are what you’d expect, with nice little voiceovers telling you your weapons have been upgraded.  I really like the music.  I’m pretty sure there’s a separate track for each level, though there doesn’t appear to be special boss music.  Either way, I highly suggest you balance the audio so music is maximized and the sound effects are just in the background.  I think that’s the optimal experience for this game.

So is Assault Squadron the king of the hill?  No, but it’s a fun little game.  A better balancing of difficulty levels and longer / more levels would certainly make it a strong contender.  Still, I’ve played Causal mode through three or four times now without getting bored, so that has to count for something, right?

App Summary
Title: Assault Squadron Developer: Chillingo Ltd
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req: 2.2.1
Price: $2.99 App Size: 191 MB
  • Combination of vertical / horizontal scrolling levels
  • Nice graphics
  • Great soundtrack
  • Unbalanced difficulty levels
  • Overall game too short


Rat-a-tat-tat! Shooter games are in TMA’s house!

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