It’s always kind of thrilling to see a company knock it out of the park with their debut title on a platform. Psyonix Games– contributors to console title like Homefront and Bulletstorm– have released Arc Squadron, a gorgeous and intense new game for iOS that is exactly the kind of game that you would expect from a company that’s helped shape exciting and beautiful games in the past.
Arc Squadron falls very much into the same camp as games like StarFox. But here your nameless pilot presumably has far less hair and you don’t fly with teammates. You play as a space pilot (he/she actually doesn’t have a name and is only ever called pilot), who is a member of an elite flying unit. A malevolent race known as the Guardians is laying waste to the universe, and it’s your job to stop them. You’ll race through a massive campaign consisting of 64 levels, flying a bunch of different ships that wield a whole host of devastating weapons.
The iceman cometh.
If you’ve played games like Icarus-X or any of the Cave games like DoDonPachi Blissful Death, then you’ll feel right at home with Arc Squadron’s controls. You move your ship by sliding your finger across the screen, and you can do barrel-rolls by quickly sliding your finger to one side. The game does the shooting for you, with the exception of secondary weapons, which you fire by tapping your finger on an enemy. The controls work remarkably well. The only times we had problems were when barrel-rolls didn’t go off as planned, or went off when we didn’t want them to. Other than those small inconveniences, the controls are so smooth that eventually your ship will feel like it’s merely an extension of your mind.
The game’s 64 levels offer plenty to fight through, with boss battles scattered throughout. The levels are a lot of fun and the battles are intense, with devious enemy ships and traps that all have different kinds of attacks and require various tactics to work around. The boss battles are probably the most fun part of the game. The Guardians are huge, usually taking up the entire screen, and they all have bizarre, almost manga-like looks and fighting styles that will keep you guessing. Our favorite had to be ‘Clock Block’, which is essentially a flying, Victorian clock that shoots gears and laser beams at your ship. You think you’ve seen everything until a giant space-clock destroys an advanced fighting ship by hurling huge pendulums towards the screen.
Try not to scratch the wings.
There are also challenge levels that are usually spaced out between the actual campaign levels. These are designed to be pure tests of skill. Some of them start you off with little to no health in an attempt to see how long you can survive against an onslaught of enemies, while others offer mere target practice. Still others are endless levels, where you have to fly for as long as you can while avoiding spinning blades of death and hangar doors which can close on you from random directions. These are a blast to play, and you can play through them again and again, honing your skills each time.
Between levels you can go to the hangar bay, where you can buy all kinds of goodies for your ship. There are a bunch of secondary weapons for you to buy, our favorite being the chain-lightning gun, which you can also upgrade to make more powerful and have shorter recharge times. You can also buy different paint jobs for your ship (and there are a lot to choose from) and better and more powerful ships as well.
We definitely should’ve taken the toll road.
You start the game with a ship that was essentially cobbled together from spare parts, but eventually you can buy more advanced ships all the way up to one that was reverse-engineered from alien technology. You gain money (or Arc bucks) by finishing levels or accomplishing goals, and you can also spend real-world dough to get even more credits. But you accrue credits at such an accelerated rate that only the most impatient players will feel the need to plunk down any actual cash.
Arc Squadron is a revelation. It’s a game that truly exemplifies what can really be done on iOS if you’re willing to push the devices. We didn’t even mention the absolutely gorgeous graphics, which are some of the very best we’ve ever seen on iOS. And if we didn’t mention the spectacular visuals, then you know the actual gameplay has got to be amazing. This is one of the best, most refined gaming experiences you’ll ever have on your little phone or iPad. Arc Squadron is a Must Have for everyone. We can’t think of a single soul who would be disappointed by playing this space shooter.