Anyone who grew up playing the Contra series is almost guaranteed to fall in love immediately with Star Marine: Infinite Ammo. This is no bland rip-off of old-school 2D shooters. It’s a beautiful, tough shooter that borrows the good stuff from retro games, but includes plenty of modern ideas as well. Whether you’re familiar with the Contra series or not, you’ll find a lot to love in Star Marine.
You play as a human who has crash-landed on a planet inhabited by battle robots. The story is competently told and never overstays its welcome, always bringing you back into the fray when you’re ready to start shooting again.
Welcome to the jungle.
The controls are set up like a dual-stick shooter, so the left analog stick directs your movement, while the right one directs your fire. All you can do is jump, double-jump, shoot, and switch weapons, but that’s all you need in order to bring the pain to the robot army. The controls feel about as tight and responsive as any iOS game with onscreen controls. They’re certainly adequate, but not as responsive as physical buttons would be. C’est la vie.
Enemies come in a wide variety of types, each with its own weapon and attack pattern. You’ll encounter wall turrets, soldier bots, stationary giants, flying worm bots that undulate through the sky, and a lot more. And the game’s not easy. Blindly running forward will get you killed, so you need to take your time and keep your eyes open.
The game has 10 stages, each one capped off with a creative boss battle. Most bosses are hulking machines that take up a large portion of the screen and attack following a strict pattern. You need to figure out how to avoid their attacks, find their weakness, and pump as many bullets into them as possible. These encounters can be as epic as anything you’ll find in Contra– and that’s saying something.
That robot cost $10,000!
Thankfully, you don’t enter the fight unarmed. You can build your character into a powerhouse by purchasing weapons, abilities, items, and incremental upgrades using gems, the game’s currency. The upgrades augment your individual weapons by making them more powerful or shoot faster. Other abilities affect your character directly, like making it so you don’t get knocked back when you take damage on the ground, in the air, or while hanging.
However, the upgrade system has some room for improvement. You earn gems just by doing well in the game, but you earn them at such a sluggish rate that we wonder why they even bothered. Your other gem-collecting options are to buy them in bulk through in-app purchase (of course), or to watch and re-watch a 15-second commercial to get them one at a time. The latter method is a dumb waste of time, but it works.
Even if you don’t want to drop a few bucks on gems, watching commercials or grinding and re-grinding through levels isn’t so bad. It’s definitely worth it to play one of the very best shooters on the App Store. Star Marine: Infinite Ammo is a killer game, with tons of content, terrific level designs, epic boss battles, and loads of reasons to keep coming back. Whether you’re an old-school gamer or not, you should give this game a shot.