Red Star


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Red Star Review

Be warned, comrades: Though we may all have equal status in the United Republics of Red Star, some gamers are more equal than others. Specifically, those who can gracefully handle complex controls and a total lack of mid-level checkpoints will find themselves heroically saving the day. Those who can’t should play something easier while waiting in the breadline.

Based on a series of comic books, the first of which is available as a free download on the App Store, Red Star takes place in a high-tech fantasy version of the USSR. However, the storyline in the game is nearly impenetrable, so you’ll enter each level with the simple goal of advancing to the end and destroying every enemy or boss in your way.

That’s ok, because the action in Red Star is incredibly intense and complex. You have both hand-to-hand fighting abilities and a long-range gun, plus a shield and a special move called a Protocol attack. Pressing anywhere on the screen will drop a D-pad, and tapping twice and then holding will let you lock onto whichever enemy you’re facing. This is essential to targeting faraway enemies or the weak points on the game’s numerous bosses.

Say hello to my little purple friend.

While most of the minions are soldiers with guns or blades, the game throws in a whole lot of epic boss battles. These include tanks, helicopters, walls with mounted machine guns, railcars, and other, stranger machines. Sometimes you’ll be so overwhelmed with enemy fire, you’ll be reminded of the ‘bullet hell’ type of shooter, where your goal is to move to the part of the screen that’s not covered with deadly bullets.

This intense action looks great, but the game’s speed takes a hit during a few encounters. Our 2nd generation iPod Touch was struggling to keep up at times, so your experience might vary. At its best, though, Red Star looks like a full-on PS2 game running on your iDevice, an incredibly impressive achievement that gives us real hope for future ports.

The biggest problem with Red Star is the terrible checkpoint system. You can only save between levels, which can take a good 10-20 minutes each to complete, and if you die in the middle you’re sent all the way back to the beginning. That’s right, you can die on the last boss and have to replay the entire level again. To make things even harder, there are limited health packs, no extra lives, and you’ll never get a health pack before a boss battle. This is a game designed for experts only.

Judging by that health bar, this player is just moments away from restarting the level.

Despite this frustrating design choice, there’s a whole lot more we enjoyed about Red Star, like the side-scrolling flying levels and the upgrade system which lets you emphasize different play styles. It’s a beautiful game, and it appears to be the complete PS2 game, instead of the episodic format we played at GDC.

Hopefully, updates from the developers will offer some mid-level checkpoints or more opportunities to upgrade your character, which would help alleviate the game’s incredible difficulty. But if you’ve got the patience and dedication to make it through, Red Star is among the finest beat ‘˜em up games on the iPhone.

More stories on Red Star

The Red Star Hands-On Preview and Video

Greetings, comrades! Are you ready to join in the glorious People’s Revolution? In The Red Star, a port of the 2007 PS2 game based on a series of comic books, you’ll be beating up bad guys for the sake of an alternative-history Mother Russia.

The first thing we should point out is that this won’t be a full PS2 game– at least, not at first. The Red Star is being released episodically, so the first chapter will cost between two to five dollars and include three to five hours of gameplay.

There are three playable characters in chapter one: Mekita, a light but speedy rebel, Kyuzu, a plodding but strong soldier, and an unlockable sorcerer named Maya. This type of character balance should be familiar to anyone who’s played a beat ’em up before.

In the first few levels we played, you have to march along a 3D industrial catwalk, knocking bad guys off the ledge, pummeling them to death, or shooting them with your guns. Separate controls for melee attacks and ranged weapons kept the combat feeling varied, and there’s also a special attack that slowly recharges over time. However, aiming your weapons is a little tricky, because moving and aiming use the same swipe-anywhere controls.

Another thing we’re not too keen on is that there are no checkpoints, and you have to beat a level to save your game. That also means you can’t quit at a moment’s notice or get interrupted by a phone call without losing your progress. We know it’s a PS2 port, but this still doesn’t make sense on the iPhone, where your gaming fun can be ruined by a telemarketer with bad timing.

The Red Star should be out by the end of the month, and we’re always excited to see console ports make it onto the iPhone. If you like PS2 brawlers, comic books, or potato-based alcohol, you should check out The Red Star when it launches.