Game Reviews

Alpha Wave

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| Alpha Wave
Alpha Wave
| Alpha Wave

Smartphone app stores the world over are chock full of retro 'reimaginings' - spruced-up versions of old favourites given a touchscreen twist and thrown out into the gaming wilds.

Alpha Wave is the latest in that long line. Paying homage to Space Invaders, and a little bit to Asteroids for good measure, it's a reasonably pretty title that just about manages to straddle the line between straight clone and continuation of a theme.

If you like your space shooters free of innovation, and your space debris blasted to pieces by neon lasers, then Alpha Wave could well be the game for you.

Waves of devastation

The game sees you taking control of a spaceship that can only traverse the horizontal axis along the bottom edge of the screen. You move using a single finger, pushing on the ship itself and then sliding it around.

Asteroids and other enemies tumble down the screen towards you, and it's your job to blast them into tiny pieces. As long as your finger's touching the spaceship it'll shoot, leaving you to dodge the lumps of rock and crystal that you fail to destroy.

Progression is wave-based. Shoot enough rocks and you'll fill up your wave bar. When it's full, you'll move on to harder and faster rocks. Any of the pieces of rock, crystal, or magma that you miss take points away from your bar, so balancing survival and shooting is paramount.

Space imitators

As the game gets tougher, it introduces alien craft that sneak onto the screen, fire a barrage of glowing bullets at you, and then disappear. There are also pulsating globules of light called Seekers, which hunt you down and deal out massive damage when they hit.

Your health is represented by a shield, which depletes every time an object crashes into you. You can repair your shield with red cross power-ups that drop down.

Collectible icons upgrade your weapons, too, turning your single-firing cannon into a multi-missile-pelting death dealer, and single-use bombs clear the screen entirely.

On its easiest setting, Alpha Wave is over in a couple of minutes. You'll slip through the oncoming asteroid attacks, blast the advancing aliens, and giggle at the Seeker's pitiful attempts to derail you.

On its toughest setting, it's a scream-inducing nightmare rollercoaster of close shaves, last stands, and spectacular failures.

Arcade emulator

In the end, it's only a lack of refinement that lets the game down. The action becomes repetitive, the difficulty spikes too pointy. There's a twitchy, enjoyable rhythm to the combat, but not enough variety to the grey boulders you're blasting.

Still, when the asteroids and enemies are coming thick and fast, and your shield is about to blink out of existence, there's always the compulsion to try and push on that little bit further.

It's that one-more-coin, arcade ethos that Alpha Wave just about manages to capture. And whilst it won't change the world, it'll have you coming back to try and save it more often than you'd expect.

Alpha Wave

While it doesn't add anything new to the retro template it so slavishly adheres to, Alpha Wave is still a playable and entertaining diversion
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.