There’s a fair number of arcade shooters on the App Store, from original creations to ports and re-imaginings of classic games, like Space Invaders Infinity Gene by Taito. Taito is now publishing an iOS port of RayForce, a 1993 arcade shoot-’em-up. They’re currently asking for 12 of your hard-earned dollars to experience this old arcade game. That’s a hefty amount to ask for any app, so RayForce should be pretty impressive to justify spending that much.
If nothing else, Rayforce attempts to have more depth than a traditional top-down shooter by having two levels of combat that you need to pay attention to. There’s the traditional situation of enemies having the same altitude as you, but you also need to deal with cannons and other undesirable machines below. You have a crosshair in front of your ship that locks on to targets beneath you, and you blow them up automatically once you’ve pressed your Laser button or hit the maximum number of lock-ons, depending on which control scheme you’ve chosen (Manual or Automatic).
Blast ’em to ashes.
Using automatic shooting is easily the best way to play the game. There’s no reason not to be shooting all the time, and the automatic lock-on laser firing wasn’t a problem for us. Other than selecting the shooting mode, you can also pick iPhone mode or Arcade mode. Arcade mode doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose other than being unintuitive and unwieldy. Our best estimation is that your movement is based on an invisible virtual joystick whose center is determined by your initial touch position. If that’s what it’s trying to do, it doesn’t work very well.
Regardless of how you play the game, RayForce isn’t a great fit for a touchscreen. Because your lock-on laser’s crosshair is at a fixed distance from your ship, you need to do a lot more vertical movement than in a typical shoot-’em-up, and it’s hard not to end up with your hand covering a significant portion of the screen. Fortunately, this issue is remedied to some extent when you choose the ‘Original’ display mode. That puts the graphics in a frame, leaving you with around a quarter of your screen to use as a touchpad of sorts. This makes the action smaller, but it also makes the sprites look a lot less ugly.
A warship shaped like a cricket… how fearsome!
There are some cool 3D effects (for 1993, at least) and occasionally a sprite will look pretty good, but there is an equal (if not greater) amount of muddy-looking or otherwise unattractive graphics. Like any serious Japanese shoot-’em-up, RayForce can get pretty busy. However, there is often little contrast between your enemies and the background, so keeping track of everything isn’t easy. It’s only harder given the smaller screen of an iOS device.
Even though you could call this a “bullet hell” game, it never feels especially challenging. You’ll die often if you’re not a seasoned veteran of the genre, but unlimited credits really deflates the experience of playing this game. The shooting isn’t fun enough on its own to support the experience.
We think RayForce is better suited for arcades than for your iOS device. Its price tag and quality makes it feel underwhelming. Fans of this game or the shooter genre might want to pick it up at some point, but while it’s 12 bucks, you should spend your money on something else.