Thursday, January 31, 2013

Syder Arcade [Studio Evil] - $0.99

If you’re a regular reader here on TAS, you know that one of our favorite genres is definitely Shoot-em-ups, and if you’re familiar with my own person favorites on the iOS, you might remember that Space Tripper was my #1 favorite game of 2011, and even after the intense and amazing year of 2012, is still one of my 3 favorite iOS games ever. So if you’re familiar with this next game, it should be no surprise to hear that I’m absolutely enjoying the heck out of it. Originally a PC/Mac title, Syder Arcade has been ported over to the iOS (and Android), and even with it’s virtual controls, feels right at home on the touch screen. 

Syder Arcade is described as a ‘free-scrolling, multi-directional shoot-em-up’ inspired by the hardcore old-school arcade games of the early 90’s. Like Space Tripper, you are able to switch the direction in which your ship is facing from left to right. This, along with some fairly large levels, kind of makes it feel like a sister game to Space Tripper. 
Containing 6 campaign levels, 1 endless, survival level, 4 difficulties and 3 ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, Syder Arcade has quite a bit of available gameplay. There is a pretty decent backstory which is touched on in the campaign’s 6 levels, unfortunately, this story is only available on Studio Evil’s website, and can not be found within the game. After months of war against an unknown enemy, you’ll be piloting a ship with Lieutenant Melville as you try and defend Captain Reyes’ fleet and make your way to their surprising technology and even more surprising fleet behind it. 

The controls work surprisingly well, considering it’s a SHMUP with no relative touch. Controlling your ship is done with a floating virtual joystick on the left side of the screen while flipping your ship is done with a virtual button on the right. You’re also given a v-button for your special shot which is placed under the button for ship direction. 
The reason the virtual controls work so well is because of the layouts of the levels. They do not automatically scroll from one side to the other, instead, your free to move about throughout a fairly large area and also have quite a bit of space to move up and down. The camera moves to always keep your ship on screen, and usually keeps enough space around the edges and bottom of the screen to keep your fingers out of the action, and give you ample time to react to enemies, their projectiles, and environmental hazards. 

Not only would relative touch controls ruin the gameplay, they would make some of the different ship stats obsolete. One of the biggest factors in which ship you choose will be its speed, which is different with each ship. As you play through the game, you’ll also earn stat increases that can increase your movement speed. All of this taken into consideration makes a virtual joystick fit perfectly with the gameplay. 
Along with the speed stat increases, you’ll be able to pick up projectile power-ups which will give you different types of projectiles on top of your ships basic shot, like a spread shot, plasma shot and machine gun. You’ll also be able to grab homing missiles along with side and rear shots as well. Mixed in with all of these are repair and shield items as well as items that boost up your special shot gauge, all of which will help you though some of the tougher parts of the game. 

Each one of the 6 stages has it’s own objective. In the first stage, you’ll need to catch up to the main fleet battleship. The second stage has you defending that battleship, while the third stage has you making sure that your battleship can repair itself before being taken out. I don’t want to mention the objectives in all of the levels just in case you’re interested in the story, but this should give you an idea of what you’ll be faced with. 
Now, as you’re blasting away enemy ships, you’ll also be able to earn medals for combos, consecutive shots, kills, powering up your ship and much more, that will help boost your score. Also adding to the challenge are 25 GameCenter achievements. Unfortunately, there’s currently a problem with them not unlocking at the moment, but the developers are aware of this issue and will hopefully have it fixed with the first update. 

Survival Mode is another great addition for gamers looking for that extra challenge, or just another gameplay mode that jumps right into the action. Here, you’re given one life and the ship of your choice with it’s basic level 1 weaponry to survive as long as you can while getting the best score that you can. While there is only one survival level, and the patterns for the enemies are the same every time, it does add to game and helps to round out the gameplay as well. 
Graphically, the game runs at a pretty solid 30 FPS, with the occasional drop, but nothing that effects the gameplay. The graphic design is great, especially with the backdrop for each stage adding a ton of extra depth to the look of it all. Now, I will admit that this is one SHMUP that I do not own on my PC, but it’s pretty clear from watching YouTube videos that the graphics have been brought down quite a bit, to the point where on the PC it looks like a possible PS3 title, while on the iOS it looks about PS2 quality. However, keeping in mind that this is able to run on your phone/tablet and that the price has been reduced from $8 down to $1 and is a game completely inspired by old-school Amiga games and was created for fans of those old-school games, the amount of flashy graphics, or lack there of, shouldn’t really bother too many people. The graphics and animations by iOS standards are still fairly impressive, and the mood created by the look, feel, and BGM contained within the game is fantastic. 

With Syder Arcade being Universal and, as stated, priced at a measly $0.99, it’s a must-own for fans of old-school arcade titles and SHMUPs in general. There are a couple of issues with the dropped frame rates, and GameCenter problems, both of which the developers have said will be addressed in updates, there’s still not much along the negative side that I can say about Syder. It’s a challenging, well designed and just plain fun to play game on the iOS’s touch screen. There is one thing that I probably should state in this review; it’s only playable on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S or newer. But what Studio Evil has given iOS gamers is another console quality title on the mobile platform, and with no IAPs and for a buck, it’s incredibly easy to recommend. 


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