Sunday, September 4, 2011

VenomBlast - 0.99 (Pictosoft)

VenomBlast is an updated, re-release of Pictosoft’s shmup, Zapa Ray. Pictosoft has done a pretty nice overhaul of the original game, giving us better graphics, different sounds, IAPs, a special fighter ship, and loads of tweaks. There’s also 3 hidden levels, unlocked after you beat the game on Normal, Hard, and Hell difficulties. Getting through Normal will be a challenge in itself though.

VenomBlast is a great looking shoot-em-up, with beautiful environments, and loads of variation with the enemies, in fact, there’s over 100 different types of enemies throughout the whole game. The boss battles are huge, and very well scripted, and can throw out some pretty nasty bullet sprays. To make things clear, even though there are tons of bullets fired in VenomBlast, it is not a bullet hell game. The scoring is simple, with each enemy having a set score for killing it, and no multipliers or bonuses are given. There’s also no real bullet patterns, all of the bullets are shot depending on where you’re positioned on the screen. This setting might upset some people, as having more bullets and bullet sprays on the screen doesn’t necessarily make for a better game. Bullet Hell games have eye candy bullet patterns, that can weave in and out with each other, and that you can dodge through if you know what to look for, and know what the patterns are going to be like. With huge bullet sprays shot directly at you, there’s not a specific way to weave through the bullets, you’ll just have to keep moving around, and with a little luck, not get stuck behind massive walls of undodgible bullet sprays.
Pictosoft has found a nice little solution to this problem though. Spotlight; the Fire Ball ship. In VenomBlast, you’re given 3 ships, one to start out with, and 2 to unlock with credits, all 3 being upgradeable. The original ship, named the Vulcan, is your typical shoot-em-up type fighter, having a strong blast, and wide spread once fully upgraded. The Guided Laser ship has projectiles that follow and hit ships anywhere on the screen; In front of you, behind you, or on either side of you. Then the Fire Ball ship shoots fire balls (go figure), and has fire balls that circle the ship. This spray of fire cancels out almost every type of bullet shot at you by enemies, and is a real life saver in the more hectic areas of the game. Each of the ships also fires missiles, that can be upgraded between levels, that lock on to enemies, and are pretty destructive.
The controls in VenomBlast are done pretty well, as we’re given relative touch controls, along with 2 buttons that can be placed on the right, left, or one one each side of the bottom of the screen. One button fires a nuke type shield that wipes out all bullets and most enemies when triggered, and the other button controls your ships, letting you switch between all 3 in the heat of battle. Double tapping on the screen lets you fire a bomb that clears out bullets, and causes massive damage. You only fire when you’re touching the screen though, and in a game that has numerous enemies coming at you from all directions, forcing you to pick up your thumb or finger in order to see them, this can be a real problem. Along with the buttons, the UI is made up of a battery symbol in the top right corner which is your health bar, a shield counter to the left of that, and your bomb counter next to the shields. Shields deploy automatically when you’re hit, and look like wings coming off of your ship, which is a nice little animation.
Compared to other iOS shmups, VenomBlast is a pretty hectic shooter, but it really has some stunning backgrounds and great animations with the enemies and even better with the bosses. There is an Easy Mode if you’re finding the game a little too hard, which is nice for new-comers to the genre, and your scores are shared on GameCenter throughout 5 different leaderboards, one for each difficulty, and one for all difficulties combined. The In-App-Purchases are for unlocking harder difficulties, extra lives, and buying more credits, each of which can be unlocked or bought in the between-levels store, so you’re not forced into buying anything extra unless you just want to pretty much skip ahead in the game. For $0.99, VenomBlast is a great shooter, definitely worth checking out, even if you purchased ZapaRay before it was pulled from the AppStore. It’s got plenty of challenge, and enough replay value added on with the extra bonus levels and leader boards to keep any veteran of the genre busy for quite some time.

VenomBlast is getting a score of 9 out of 10.


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