It’s a bit of a cheap tactic, converting old mobile games to the iPhone. Or at least, it has been. Gameloft might have just changed all that thanks to the complete and detailed revamp of its mobile schmup Siberian Strike.
And this isn’t a new game, by any means. Our gallant leader Chris reviewed it way back in 2006 (a long time in the mobile world), but even a cursory glance at the iPhone adaptation shows how well it’s been updated for Apple’s warhorse handset.
The back story probably isn’t very important in a shoot-‘em-up, but there’s no denying that it can really add depth to the gameplay when it’s done properly, as it is in Siberian Strike. Russia is planning world domination through a new range of state-made vodka - all under the watchful and malevolent electronic eye of the evil Stalinbot.
The Stalinbot is said to be the futuristic hybrid of Joseph Stalin and the Mir Space Station, and he’s built himself a vast and well-equipped air force. Your task, as an all-American flyboy (or girl), is to bolt headlong into this aerial army and take it out single handedly.
Which brings us to the meat and gravy of Siberian Strike. This is one of those contemporary shmups that beautifully combines the classic, vertically scrolling arcade shoot-‘em-up with its hyperactive Japanese cousin, the bullet hell game.
Some might find the immensely chaotic (yet strangely attractive) action to be too much to cope with, and feel a seizure coming on half way through the first level, but others will feel quite differently about it.
Bullet hell fans will revel in the high-octane, nonstop dogfighting that pays sincere homage to the Silver Age of the arcades. There’s no real complexity or even that much diversity to the gameplay - you’ve got your overpowered little ship, and the enemy’s got millions of drones and a few flying behemoths between you and its headquarters. Destroy everything and capitalism once again thwarts communism.
Or is it the other way around? Who cares - just kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out!
The controls could almost seem like something of a cheat. Your ship simply follows your finger around the screen, and although a fingernail can often get in the way, it actually feels like an analogue controller, and since the game speed is slick and smooth throughout it’s a system that works beautifully.
Holding a second finger on the screen charges a secondary weapon (not unlike R-Type), but stops your standard guns during the charging period. The expected array of smart bombs brings Siberian Strike up to full, bullet hell spec, and all that’s left is for you play until your fingers, eyes and brain bleed.
But there’s more. An ad-hoc wi-fi multiplayer option is also thrown in so you and another rabid war bastard can take to the sky and give those commie Stalinites what for. The game speed still blisters even in two-player mode, and brings more wonderful coin-op fuelled memories to the surface as you bustle, shout and shoot in unison.
Siberian Strike isn’t a small download, as you may have noticed (almost 100MB) so it’s worth pointing out that it comes loaded with a hefty amount of voice acting and some very amusing cut-scenes, so rest assured that every megabyte is put to good use.
Although we’re not going to mark it down for its strong cult appeal, puzzle fans, role players and anyone who isn’t a fan of raw, mindless gaming carnage probably won’t be wiping quite so much drool off their chin as I am after a game of Siberian Strike, but you’re still advised to give it a lash in case it changes your mind.
This is brutal, unabashed arcade escapism that reminds us why the shoot-‘em-up dominated video gaming for so many years.