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Let’s all be honest with ourselves; Star Fox 64 was clearly and objectively the best game for the Nintendo 64. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t been showing much love to Fox and his furry pilot companions, leaving a spacecraft-based rail-shooter-sized hole in the hearts of millions. Luckily, a developer simply called Psyonix is here save us with their debut iOS title, Arc Squadron!
Now, don’t get me wrong. This game is in a similar style and setting as Star Fox, but it is in no way a rip-off. It simply has enough similar elements to make me feel eight years old again. It’s actually a very well crafted rail shooter built from the ground up for a touch screen. To steer your ship through each level, you just tap and drag any part of the screen, swiping to perform beloved barrel rolls. When your targeting reticule line’s up with a baddie, you fire automatically, and secondary special weapons are activated with a simple tap. Trust me when I say the streamlined controls and gameplay don’t leave you with nothing to do. There is plenty of chaos to pay attention to at any given time, from dodging lasers and mines to collecting bonus point cube chains.
I won’t say much about the story. It’s pretty standard as far as intergalactic war stuff goes. It’s really just there to provide an excuse for the levels, which are numerous and glorious. Each area of the galaxy puts you through a handful of levels with bonus challenge levels along the way, culminating in an epic boss fight. The boss fights are particularly well done, each memorable and requiring new tactics.
This game is very arcade in nature, and that’s a good thing. Your score in a level directly translates into currency, which lets you upgrade and purchase new ships, weapons, and skins. Special weapons range from single target lasers or missiles to homing clusters to doppelgangers of your own ship. In-app purchase currency is available, but it’s totally unnecessary. You won’t really have to farm, but you’ll probably want to anyway! This game uses a four star scoring system that makes level replaying perfection runs totally appealing and addicting. Plus, when all is said and done, you can unlock harder difficulties.
I haven’t even mentioned the Unreal Engine visuals, which are jaw-dropping at times. This is one good looking game, with solid sound design too. Game Center achievements and Leaderboards give you even more to do! It may not be overly complex and lack a compelling narrative, but every aspect works perfectly with everything else. You may not like it for its simplicity and somewhat repetitious nature, but it’s a solid endeavor worthwhile for the lovingly crafted frantic gameplay. Arc Squadron is iOS Universal and currently available for three dollars. If you aren’t sold yet, check out the Lite version instead.