We had a good feeling about Triphids as soon as we booted up the game and saw William Sessions’ humorless “Winners Don’t Use Drugs!” PSA message–standard accoutrement for arcade machines from decades past–on the loading screen. Turns out our feelings were justified, as this nifty little shooter mixes a healthy dose of arcade nerd humor with solid retro gameplay.
Triphids refers to itself as a “tube shooter” in the vein of Gyruss and Tempest, meaning that its gameplay is radial in character: enemies spiral out of the center of the screen, while your ship spins around its circumference, firing inwards. You have to use your cannon sparingly, though, since shooting it continuously will cause it to overheat, reducing you from rapid fire to single shots. The baddies also send a lot of lead in your direction as they fly around in mesmeric patterns, so the game’s real focus is careful navigation through the bullet storm. Your ship does have one very awesome defensive trick up its sleeve, though–if your gun heat meter is empty, you can shake your iPhone to reverse the enemy’s bullets right back at them. If cleverly timed, it’s like using a screen-clearing nuke.
The really cool thing about Triphids is how well it captures that crappy old 80s feel we know and love so dearly. It’s not just the pixilated graphics and synthy sound effects, although they definitely lay down a great foundation; it’s little touches like the bombastic message on the title screen inviting you to “blast off to strike the evil interlopers!”, as well as the completely unintelligible digitized voice that pipes up every now and again during play. The developer must have either a fantastic memory or one heck of a MAME collection.
The game is generally very playable, and it offers a major challenge on the nigh-impossible “Justice” mode. However, we got a little angry with the touch controls, which require you to actually touch around the screen’s edge to move your ship. Thus, if you make your ship fly to the top of screen, you’ll be blocking your view of the screen with your fat finger. We were also under-impressed with the game’s boss fights–we’re glad that they’re there, but we want them to be more exciting.
It’s clear to us that a lot of TLC went into Triphids’ construction, and this hard work has paid off. $1.99 is a very reasonable price for the kind of action you’re getting here.