A passion project for indie developer David Molnar, who evidently spent a good chunk of the 80’s (and his allowance, no doubt) at the local arcade blasting through an array of side scrolling shoot-em-ups, Interstellar Force (out now, $0.99) is an action-packed and frenetically paced trip down memory lane that pays direct homage to genre greats such as Defender and R-Type.
Interstellar Force straps the player into the cockpit of a ‘T-99 Star Fighter’ (or nifty looking spaceship, in layman’s terms) for a series of high-octane battles with hordes of tooled-up UFOs fought in the stratosphere of alien worlds, amid an asteroid storm, within the bowels of a planet’s cavern system and so on and so forth.
Either tilt controls or a virtual joy-stick are used to maneuver your craft around the screen, a quick tap anywhere on the screen pops off your primary weapon, while another tap on the top-right triggers one of a limited supply of devastating bombs which are powerful enough to obliterate every enemy within range. Nice.
But of course, as you blaze through sidescrolling levels, dodging enemy fire and attempting to annihilate as many alien nasties as possible, a range of powerups can be grabbed that restore lost energy cells to your ship’s shields or, better again, beef up your arsenal with inventively named goodies like a ‘Triax Cannon’ or ‘Plasma Electro-Cannon.’
The 7 levels of shoot ’em up action on offer here are an absolute blast and will give both your fingers and reactions a decent workout, but the true star of the show are the brilliant visuals, particularly those of the final level which switches to a snazzy 8-bit graphical style shortly after your ship passes through a weird radiation cloud (see below).
Now, as much as I enjoyed Interstellar Force, it’s not without its shortcomings. For starters, for a game that’s inspired by arcade shoot-em-ups renown for their relentless difficulty, this requires surprisingly little effort to beat and is disappointingly short (I gunned my way through all 7 levels in under 30 minutes). And while the final screen does promise that there are indeed more levels in production, I’d also really love to see some super-challenging boss battles, perhaps some sort of endless mode and even more 8-bit action included in future updates. Especially that last one!
Still, ISF does come packing Openfeint integration and the gameplay is exciting enough that you’ll most likely play through the main adventure multiple times.
iFanzine Verdict:The force is strong with this one – smooth, intuitive controls, 7 levels of unbridled action and some truly fantastic retro eye-candy conspire to make ISF an easy recommendation for fans of a good ol’ fashioned schmup. Really could do with more levels and a few boss battles to expand on that slight running time though.