If you had told us that Backflip Studios was going to release a vertical space shooter with heaps of unlockables and a focus on boss battles for free, we would have cleared our schedules to make time for it without even seeing screenshots. It’s an instantly fun concept, and it’s easy to see how hours and hours could be wasted on such a game. Boss Battles, however, proves that execution is just as important as concept.
In Boss Battles, you play Rico, a sharp-eyed raccoon with his own space ship. When you start, your ship does little more than shoot straight ahead. The more you play, the more gems you earn. You spend gems on firepower upgrades, from rapid lasers to homing missiles. You can also buy add-ons, like shields or additional blasters. Each level rewards you with enough gems that you can upgrade your ship as much and as often as you like.
You have eight bosses to battle, and each one can be battled multiple times to earn their bounty. Unfortunately, each level plays the same as all the others. In the beginning, Rico will face off against waves of baddies, until finally facing the boss. Each boss will have appendages or tentacles which you will need to blast away before finally defeating it. It’s a very old-school approach to end-level bosses.
What beautiful eye you have.
One odd element of the game that is missing is your ship’s shield meter. Each time you face off against a boss, you will be able to see how much life he has left in the form of a life meter. Your ship has no such meter, and you can easily lose track of how many hits your ship has taken.
As any freemium game’s success is based on how often you feel the need to play, Boss Battles doesn’t feature enough baddies or upgrades to keep you hooked. Sadly, even the basics of the scrolling shooter feels weak. Other games, Space Invaders Infinity Gene in particular, perfected this style of shooter on a touch screen, but Boss Battles feels a step or two behind.
Boss Battles could have been a home run. Console classics like Star Fox have shown that space shooters with animal characters can be great and lighthearted, but the characters and the writing in Boss Battles are an afterthought. Short portions of text accompany each level, but it’s barely worth noticing.
Even the upgrades, while fun, are not enough, and there isn’t enough meat to each level or variety between bosses to keep you interested for long. Boss Battles is based on a good idea, but the addictive quality necessary just isn’t there.