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ARC Squadron for iOS

ARC Squadron for iOS

Platform: iPhone/iPod
Category: Action Games, Space Sims

ARC Squadron is a new scrolling shooter by Psyonix. I was given a review copy a week ago and have been really enjoying it. It's a 3D, on-rails, space shooter (think Star Fox). With the Unreal Engine, I expected it to look good, and it didn't disappoint. In fact, I knew I wanted to review it as soon as I saw the trailer. It looks amazing.


Whoops, I guess I just talked about the graphics. It looks superb. There weren't any pop ups or slow-down (except when I got e-mail notifications) even though I was playing on an iPhone 4. I noticed that you turn corners a lot and that there's curved ground that keeps you from ever approaching enemies from far away. Whether or not this was a deliberate choice to cut down on needing to render things from afar, it worked, and the game looks great.


ARC Squadron features good music and full, immersive sound effects. There are also two characters with voice-acting that give a little direction at the beginning of each level. The male character seems to be in charge and talks down to you like you'd expect a high-ranking military officer to talk to a lowly enlisted soldier. However, the voice-acting sounds like an average guy pretending to have a gruff, cool-and-dangerous voice. While it doesn't really hurt the game, I found the voice to be annoying. The female character treats you a nicer, and I liked her voice-acting.


The game's on rails, so your ship flies automatically. You can place your finger anywhere on the screen and then drag to move the ship in the direction you drag. Basically, it's a virtual joystick that's centered wherever you place your thumb. It works decently. You can switch thumbs if you need, and it's pretty seamless. Once you realize this, it gets even easier. In addition, some special weapons will allow you to tap enemies to launch weapons at them.

Most levels task you simply with getting to the end of the level. The better you do, the more points you'll get. Boss fights, as you'd expect, task you with defeating a boss. Bosses have glowing weakpoints, so you'll always know where to aim. There are also bonus levels of sorts that ask you to destroy targets without missing or to collect certain bonuses without missing. They make for a nice distraction sometimes.

There are three sectors in the game. Each sector consists of six levels and a boss. There are three difficulties, but it functions a little different than most games. Instead of picking your difficulty, the sectors repeat on a higher difficulty. Not only are the levels harder, but the sectors feature different bosses. You play through three sectors, each with its own boss. Then you play through the three sectors again. This time they're harder and feature different bosses. Finally you play through the three sectors again on the hardest difficulty with three new bosses. It's a neat idea.

Between levels, you can go to the hangar where you can purchase new ships, upgrade ships you own, purchase new weapons, and upgrade current weapons. I always have trouble with these kinds of decisions in games. Do I upgrade my weapon even though it's the worst weapon in the game, or do I save for a better weapon? If I don't upgrade my weapon, will I be able to progress far enough to even purchase the next weapon? It's really rewarding when you get a new weapon or ship and find yourself doing significantly better! The better score you get on a level, the more money you earn. If you want to earn some more money, you can go back and replay levels, although you get a bonus the first time you complete a level. For people looking for a shortcut, you can purchase the in-game money with real currency.


ARC Squadron is definitely a fully polished game that looks amazing. 3D on-rails space shooters don't seem very plentiful, and I think that's a shame. While the game can get repetitive (and difficult), I found it very enjoyable. Even if you don't play it all the way through to the end and just want to play the easy mode (or are feeling nostalgic for a genre that doesn't get seen often), I think it's definitely worth the $0.99 on the App Store!


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