Next time you are stuck on the couch with a seasonal cold or a bout of H1N1 wouldn’t it be nice to be able to jump into a ship and fly around your body, blasting all those viruses to bits? Well, that’s the premise of TipCat Mobile’s horizontally-scrolling shooter, Cell War.
Anybody who has played shooters such as R-Type or Gradius will feel right at home with Cell War. The game consists of flying through a corridor, blasting tons of enemies and bosses while avoiding enemy fire. To this end you have at your disposal a bevy of powerups and attacks. By default you are always shooting forward, but by tapping on enemies you can fire a missile at them, and by touching the screen in two corners you can deploy an omnidirectional shockwave.
Right of the bat it should be noted that Cell War uses tilt to control. Though it does provide handy calibration and sensitivity settings to make this as flexible as possible, there is not an alternate control scheme which might be a deal-breaker if you are immediately turned off by motion controls. However, we thought the tilt controls worked well and surprised ourselves with some pretty agile flying. Firing your special weapons does not work quite as well, as they involve blocking the screen with fingers in the case of the missiles, and scrambling to find and touch the corner of the screen in the case of the shockwave.
Cell War has some nicely polished graphics and shows off some great enemy design over the course of its nine levels. Each level takes about five minutes and is punctuated by one or two bosses. Unfortunately, there is no level select option, so you are forced to play the game in order every time. This may be true to the genre’s arcade roots, but it is not very accommodating for quick play sessions.
The game offers three difficulties which basically dictate the density of enemies that you will be up against. We found the difficulty of the game to be just about right: always a challenge but never to the point of being frustrating in any one spot.
Who needs multivitamins when you have a space ship?
One source of annoyance for us was the game’s interruption handling. If you get a call or have to flip back to the home screen, you lose your progress in the current level and are kicked back to the beginning of the level when you restart the app. We have seen better implementations in similar games and it would be nice if TipCat could improve this is future versions.
There are basic online leaderboards and an online community suite through a company called Playhaven. Unfortunately, these community features are barren and useless. Even just a level-specific high score chart or the ability to tweet your high scores would have move value than the community offerings in the game right now.
Those bits of housekeeping aside, Cell War is a lot of fun to play. Each of the enemies and bosses requires a slightly different plan of attack and forces you to use all the weapons at your disposal. Our first play through we were constantly enticed by what would come next, and once we beat it the first time, we were excited to try the tougher difficulty levels. Everything from the enemy design to the music to the gameplay feels like an homage to the classics from the golden age of horizontal shooters, and that is a good thing.