While Arc’s floaty descent is appreciated when the player’s targeting hard-to-reach baddies, the game’s physics do contain one unwelcome quirk: that slow falling speed comes into play to a lesser degree during normal jumps too, which makes avoiding enemy projectiles more difficult than it should be. Don’t forget that Arc’s stature makes him a nice-sized target to begin with! While the health bar provides some much needed leeway for now, here’s to hoping that a physics tweak for normal jumps can leave gameplay with a more natural feel where it’s needed. The movement joystick can also be improved in updates. While its right side is well managed with a touch response area that lies far outside the joystick’s visual diameter, the left side is comparatively insensitive, making backward movement less reliable than forward movement.
Despite the aforementioned weaknesses, there’s no question that Star Marine shines thanks to great level and enemy design. GlitchSoft may not have followed the classic Contra formula as much as I expected going in, but they reach for the same quality stage layouts by mixing in plenty of variety. Arc often finds himself chased by recurring bosses, plummeting to his doom after being shot off tightropes, and zapped by big enemies that have surprises in store once they’ve taken a beating. A few stages in and Star Marine’s boss battles really begin stealing the show, and this makes finishing the game to access Boss Rush mode all the more worth it. A number of bonus survival stages also unlock as the player progresses. An eleven stage campaign may not seem all that long at first blush, but Star Marine’s difficulty can make it stretch up to ten hours for a first playthrough — and wherever you fall on the IAP balancing question, the prospect of unlocking an entirely different set of weapons in a second go-around lends Star Marine considerable replay value.
Star Marine impresses the eyes more in motion than in screenshots, with parallax-scrolling vistas awaiting players who’ve cleared the first couple stages. The main theme’s ominous melody always sticks in my mind well after I finish with the weapons upgrade screen, but muted rock in-game does its job without particularly standing out against the ever-present cacophony of gunfire.
iFanzine Verdict: GlitchSoft still has some brushing up to do on Star Marine’s jump physics and movement joystick, but they’ve turned in a compelling run-and-gun platformer packed with interesting weapons, even more interesting bosses, and a well-varied campaign. It’s not Contra on iOS, but it is a step forward for the genre on this platform.