Mini Squadron Hands-On Preview

Mini Squadron is available now on the App Store. We’ll have our full review soon, but take our word for it: this game is well worth the money.

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.