RayStorm, sequel to RayForce, is a shoot-’˜em-up by Taito that’s been ported to the iPhone from the arcade and PlayStation. It actually has a mildly intricate plot, one certainly more involved than, say, Space Invaders or Galaga, but not in a way that you need to know anything more than to shoot at everything on the screen.
And really, that’s what RayStorm is about: shooting everything and never stopping. In fact, the controls are even set up in their default configuration so that you literally never stop shooting… even after the boss is dead and the stage is clear. You can configure a more manual style, but even then, it still keeps going, just a little less frequently.
But that’s okay; while the game handles the firing, that means you can focus on the flying. The game takes place in a top-down perspective with a vertical scroll through 3D rendered environments. The interesting thing about this, combined with the rate of fire, is that you don’t really line up with your targets to take them down; rather, there is an automatic lock-on feature which picks up on enemies you fly near, and your guns will move to accommodate, whether the baddies are in the air or on the ground.
After choosing from one of two ships, each with its own type of laser fire, you can choose from one of seven stages to play through (including bosses at the end of each), or elect to go through them all in sequence. There are also two modes of play, including the easier ‘iPhone Mode,’ which optimizes enemy placement and colors for a more relaxing experience, or the ‘Arcade Mode,’ which is said to be a faithful recreation of the original arcade game (we’ll take them at their word on this, as we never got to play the original version). In either mode, you can adjust the difficulty to your liking in the Options menu.
In addition to the 3D graphics, which manage to stand out rather well on the iPhone, RayStorm also features some top-notch touchscreen controls. Simply touching the screen and moving your finger maneuvers your ship, and aside from having your finger in the way of the playing field at times, moving is not a problem. It didn’t cause us any grief, at any rate.
Pick on someone your own size.
One small problem does come with the game, however, though it’s generally inherent to the genre, and that’s avoiding enemy shots. Specifically, when the screen is full of firepower and explosions from either side, it can sometimes be tricky to tell just which ones you need to avoid. Fortunately, you do get a feel for it as you go, and can soon find yourself maneuvering between shots which you know by all means should have killed you, yet coming out unscathed.
The only other problem is that the game is rather short. Of course, games such as this were designed to munch quarters in arcades by killing you relentlessly, thus encouraging you to replay the same levels many, many times over. With the difficulty curbed, the game’s seven stages are going to seem a lot shorter, though there is replay value in trying to get the best score, or from increasing the difficulty level to something more challenging. But for a straight playthrough on the default settings, don’t expect a very long experience.
All in all, RayStorm serves as a fine example of the genre, one which has persevered in Japan throughout the years despite falling mostly out of favor in the West. It has an oldschool feel without feeling quite as dated as one might expect.