Phoenix HD, a shmup on iOS, does a fine undertaking of conjuring memories of ‘90s shoot’em-ups, injected with a frantic Eastern approach. Letting you man different spaceships, those outside of the starter vehicle requiring an in-app purchase, Firi Games’ entry is a well presented and straight to the action affair. What’s next is chaotically simple: A myriad of bullets.
Procuring inspiration from the great Japanese bullet-hell cousins, there are flowing orbs of red that coast and waltz across the screen, your own artillery on auto-fire. It’s picturesque to watch as you weave and bob through enemy fire, like a needle and thread through neon rose petals.
“Considerably hectic”For the pilot the reality isn’t as attractive. You’re on a suicide mission. The opposing force comes in a multiplicity of shapes and sizes, all embossed with a crimson red. By taking out their gun turrets they’ll fall faster. And this is where the tactics come in. All but the smallest enemy ships have multiple turrets. By concentrating your fire upon them, you’ll do more damage and be rewarded. Green shards of armour will break away and attach to your ship, boosting your longevity. Once a turret is destroyed all the bullets on-screen that it fired turn to bonus points, which can be used to purchase upgrades for the next battle.
However, each individual turret has its own attack pattern. Some will fire directly at you, others spray out sun-like rays, shoot boomerang missiles and more. It all becomes considerably hectic. Yet the mechanical precision provides the control necessary to survive and improve. It’s vital for a shmup to control accurately and Firi Games have achieved this.
To help you out, power-ups from defeated spaceships can be looted to improve your own firepower. EMPs disable enemy fire while Alpha Strikes release a super powered barrage of energy against everything on screen. Your ship holds a single power-up at a time that is launched by tapping the screen.
“Randomised nature”Taking damage sees the strong colour scheme saturate. As you approach death the screen fades to black and white; however, the red bullets and green health shards remain as vivid as ever. It makes for an artistic twist on a known formula while also letting the player know it’s nearly over.
What this doesn’t have is the in-depth and initially bewildering score attack systems that modern Japanese entries in the genre do. With leaderboards being the main incentive for replays it’s a missed opportunity that chain attacks and multipliers aren’t involved. At the same time, the randomised nature of each playthrough is a double-edge sword. For quick, on-the-go blasts this extends its life, however, it knocks the balance of score attacks. Two players fighting out for the best score with randomised enemies isn’t impartial.
These leaderboards are localised though, letting you see how you fair globally, in your country or right down to the position in your city. As Cave ports over the big girls, Phoenix HD does well to fend for itself. Well refined, Firi Games have done well without opening their arms and attempting to fully redefine the stars.
Version 2.0.3 reviewed