In possibly the most interesting premise to hit the App Store yet, a UFO has landed on a world populated by anthropomorphic cats and sapped up all the color! One cat isn’t just going to roll over while the bad guy turns his world into a black-and-white sci fi re-run, so he does what any anthropomorphic cat with a little sense would in such a situation: he whips out his ray gun and starts blasting away at the Color Bandits (Out Now, $0.99)! What results is a run-and-gun sidescroller that’s well-crafted enough to provoke nostalgia for some of the console and arcade genre classics, but a little on the easy side by comparison.
Imagine the Contra formula, but add a life bar and remove jumping, and you have a pretty good idea what’s in store here. Tons and tons of robotic enemies rapidly fill an auto-scrolling screen, and they go down just as fast with the exception of bosses that cap off each level. Enemy design is simple enough at first, but the opposition’s patterns and the combinations in which they’re tossed at the player grow satisfyingly complex with progress. Temporary special weapons and screen-clearing bombs also float in from time to time; the special weapons have ammunition bars that are quickly spent, leaving this aspect feeling a little under-utilized. Genre fans will likely yearn for some way to strategically switch off between the special weapons and the normal handgun, but alas, the player appears forced to use them up within seconds.
Despite the healthy number and variety of enemies that come into play, shoot-em-up vets will undoubtedly find Color Bandits much less challenging than average for the genre. This is explained in large part by the gun-wielding kitty’s health bar, which is quite generous compared to the small number of one-hit-and-you’re-dead lives traditionally assigned to such protagonists. A one-hit-death challenge mode to go with infinite ammo for those special weapons, and genre diehards would be in heaven here!
On balance, Color Bandits‘ at times underwhelming challenge can be chalked up just as easily to how silky smooth its interface is. A slider bar for moving left and right may sound like a disaster in the making on paper, but in practice it works well enough — especially backed up by a targeting wheel that changes direction of fire on a dime. There’s also a survival mode that’s naturally integrated into Game Center and Chillingo’s own Crystal network, where genre veterans can make their shoot-em-up prowess known far and wide. Color Bandits is no slouch in terms of content in this price range either, sporting six levels that last fifteen to twenty minutes on average, factoring in any retries the player might need.
Color Bandits‘ greatest claim to fame is its aesthetic delivery: each level starts off in sepia tones, and gradually comes to life in vibrant pastel colors as enemies go down. The soundtrack carries a brilliant retro feel but several tracks struck me as over-used.
iFanzine Verdict: A clear winner among sidescrolling shoot-em-ups on iOS for its smooth interface, enemy and boss design, and of course its brilliant presentation. A couple load-bearing elements from the very best genre classics on consoles and in ye olde arcades are missing here, but the lower challenge that results definitely makes the game more accessible to casual players.