MiniSquadron


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Reviews

MiniSquadron Review

If there’s anything we’ve learned this year across all forms of gaming both big and small, it’s that we love ourselves some shooters. Whether you look at the record-smashing success of Modern Warfare 2 on traditional platforms or the breadth and depth of shooters on portables, consumers appear to have an insatiable thirst for the next great shooter.

On the iPhone specifically, there have been a ton of shooting games that have had their time in the sun. Fresh from the labs over at MrFungFung– that’s the studio’s real name, seriously– MiniSquadron brings an original perspective to a genre thirsty for innovation and inspiration.

MiniSquadron is a shooter that is fundamentally conventional. At its structural core, this is a level-based wave shooter that’ll have you gunning down the AI. Working with 3 lives, you take to the skies in a variety of unique planes outfitted with specialized ammo and attributes. Though you start off with a slow plane that’s equipped with a peashooter, you’ll be unlocking new planes equipped with faster speeds and more intimating ammo like homing missiles and lasers. There are also powerups that enable health regeneration, speed boosts, and invisibility to name a few.

A perfect night for a missile fight.

Using a perfectly-tuned virtual joystick and buttons setup, your success (or lack thereof) will be completely up to you. Dodging enemy fire while doing twists and turns feels natural, and differences between your plane selections can definitely be felt.

The thing that makes MiniSquadron so addictive and charming is its personality. Instead of risking monotony, the game is layered with a bunch of wacky stuff to keep you frosty. In conjunction with taking down standard planes, you’ll run into huge bombers, flying chickens, and UFOs. Big cartoony messages pop up when you’re kicking butt and it serves as great positive reinforcement to keep on going. These considerations are taken to the next plateau based on the awesome presentation.

Don’t let the game’s 2D perspective fool you, because MiniSquadron competes with the prettiest efforts from the biggest names in the business. Each of the 56 planes have a distinct visual style, and the game’s eight environments feel completely different from each other. Explosions and colors pop off the iPhone’s screen, and even the busiest scenes truck along without a hint of slowdown.

Roll over, Beethoven.

Complementing the awesome visuals is an offbeat soundtrack that will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows. Depending on your sensibilities, the inclusion of classical music from the likes of Beethoven and Mozart will impress or enrage you. We find the insanity juxtaposed against soothing classical music to be clever and ironic. But if you’re on the enraged end of the spectrum, custom soundtracks are included.

While we had a good time playing through the single-player mode and taking on several combinations of enemies, the multiplayer is also great. All unlockables earned in single player are available here. With another friend in the room, you can play one vs. one over local wi-fi. We didn’t notice any perceptible lag, and the basic stat tracking is a welcome touch. As fun as it is, larger scale multiplayer action would have been perfect for four to six players.

MiniSquadron deserves all the respect and adoration in the world. It’s one of those games that hits the spot in the ways that matter. Go ahead and skip that delicious McLatte, and buy this exceptional shooting game instead.

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Previews

Mini Squadron Hands-On Preview

Mini Squadron is a game that caught our eye the moment we saw the first screenshots and trailer. Here is an obviously polished game, with smooth animation, oddly fitting classical music, and graphics as colorful as a bag of Skittles. We got our hands on a preview build of the game, and we have to admit that it’s living up to our high expectations.

In Mini Squadron you control your plane using an on-screen analog stick and a fire button. The planes are quite nimble, so doing loops, steering in and out of nosedives, and chasing bogies is easy to get the hang of. Each level is wider than the span of the iDevice’s screen, so the camera follows you until you reach the edges, at which point your plane does a smooth 180. Onscreen warnings pop up if you fly too high or too low. Soaring too high causes your engine to stall, and plunging too low (you guessed it) causes you to plow into the ground.

There are eight levels, and the goal of each one is to eradicate 12 waves of enemies without losing all your lives. The game is populated with many different types of baddies, from small planes that evade you with dozens of cursive-like loops, to larger aircraft that shoot firework projectiles that rise up and flutter down. You might even battle a UFO or a flock of birds.

To help you along the way, you’ll find power-ups that do things like give you extra lives, make you invincible for a period of time, or give you a mega-laser perfect for taking out entire fleets of enemies at a time. Even the power-ups seem to have personalities: some of them seem to speed away from you as you approach, or swoop close to the ground, making you risk crashing as you chase after them.

As you play, you’ll unlock new planes that are built of sturdier stuff and have better weapons or pumped-up stats, like speed, turning ability, etc. There’s also a local wi-fi multiplayer mode that we weren’t able to test out, but we look forward to playing once the game is released. And speaking of, Mini Squadron has already been submitted to the App Store, so expect it within the next week or two. The price will be $2.99.