Okay, so calling an iOS game ‘addictive’ may seem like a tired cliché at this point – heck, if their descriptions are to be believed, every second title on the App Store is basically digital crack, right? – but in all honesty, I can’t think of a more appropriate adjective to describe Warner Skoch’s new twin-stick shooter Vertex Blaster (out now, $0.99).
Unabashedly modeled after the widely acclaimed likes of Super Star Dust HD and Geometry Wars, and unafraid to wear its arcade-y leanings on its sleeve, Vertex Blaster dazzles with snazzy, retro-styled visuals, slick controls, and instantly gratifying high score-fueled action that’s absolutely perfect for quick spurts of on-the-go gaming.
Now, a gripe I often have when reviewing twin-stick shooters is that they tend to launch with a solitary gameplay mode and a vague promise of more content come update time; thankfully, this isn’t the case with Vertex Blaster, which boasts three distinct modes from the word go.
‘Arcade Mode’, ostensibly the main game and my favorite of the bunch, is based around a refreshingly simple objective: hold onto your lives for as long as possible as you cruise around a rotating 3D planet gunning down a diverse array of enemy ships and dodging hurtling chunks of space debris. Things start out a manageable tempo, but the longer you manage to survive, the crazier the action becomes, reaching a nerve-shredding crescendo as enumerable enemies attempt to swarm you and meteors smash into the planet left, right and center. Trust me, frantic doesn’t quite cover how blazingly fast-paced Vertex Blaster’s gameplay gets!
The game’s difficulty ramps up pretty quickly and spectacularly, so it’s just as well your ship comes packing some serious ordnance, including lasers that get incrementally more powerful as you play and two different types of bombs – one emits a shockwave that obliterates all enemies within a set range and the other acts as a decoy that lures the bad guys away from your craft so you can pick them off from a safe distance. As kooky and inventive as these explosives are, you wouldn’t catch me complaining if Warner wanted to include some extra weaponry or power-ups in a future update to the game (droppable mines, an invincibility shield, and a cloaking device are top of my wish-list, should anyone be taking notes).
Vertex Blaster’s second and third mode are enjoyable variations on the core gameplay; ‘Survival’ sees you racking up a high score based on how long you can survive sans power-ups and with only one life, while ‘Meteor Shower’ removes enemies from the equation and tasks you with defending three communications towers from shards of space rock. Each game type has its own global leaderboard and set of achievements, so Game Center junkies are well served here. Oh, and if you’re in possession of either the iControlPad or Zell Applications’ Joypad Elite app, it’s probably worth noting that Vertex Blaster works like a charm with both.
As mentioned, I’d like to see ‘Arcade Mode’ fleshed out with a few more weapons to play with and the game’s one endlessly looping song does begin to grate before long, but, overall, I’ve got zero qualms about wholeheartedly recommending Vertex Blaster to fans of the twin-stick shooter genre or indeed anyone on the lookout for an accessible, yet satisfyingly challenging high score orientated title. Stellar!
iFanzine Verdict: Beautifully simple and simply beautiful, Vertex Blaster fuses frantic, arcade-inspired action with slick controls and vector-style visuals to utterly thrilling effect. Looking for some serious bang for your buck? Look no further.