At first glance, the price tag for Dariusburst SP might cause your eyes to water. 749 bullet-holes in your wallet are pretty hard to ignore, especially in these harsh economic climes.
However, there’s an important bit of context. This is a port of a game that originally appeared on the PlayStation Portable, remixed and remastered for the iOS platform. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective performed a similar, er, trick, when it migrated from its original home on the Nintendo DS.
In those terms, it’s true that you’re paying over and above the cost of a standard game on the App Store, but you’re also buying fully fledged console gaming software, with the equivalent production values, for a fraction of its original price.
And, oh my, what production values they are. Dariusburst SP looks - and sounds - spectacular. It’s a traditional side-scrolling schmup, certainly, but one with decades of refinement and a plethora of game modes that’ll keep you busy for some time to come.
You choose a gunship and then fly from left to right through each level, dodging bullets and obliterating everything on the screen. The controls are set so that fire is automatic, so the only growing concern is avoiding damage to your craft and deploying smartbombs.
Wave after wave of enemies fly towards your ship, but they’re not the only danger to face. The game will see you navigating through narrow corridors of scrap metal and asteroid fields, before being confronted by a giant metallic fish-boss who flings a widening arc of lasers and bombs across the screen.
Best of all, the game is built on a branching path, so that no single playthrough is enough to experience all the levels it contains. You need to complete Dariusburst SP several times to experience all the challenges, soundtracks, power-ups, and enemies it has to offer.
The graphics are 2D, but they manage some interesting parallax effects like enemy patterns swirling behind and under your ship before they materialise on your plane of perspective.
It can occasionally be difficult to tell whether an enemy is shootable, but on the whole it’s a neat trick.
The in-game extras include three modes of play - Original, Remix, and Mission - which offer several variations not present on the original PSP version. Elsewhere, there are customisable controls and unlockable items like new gunships, production art, and event videos.
But while the overall quality of the game is top-notch, the most outstanding feature is the soundtrack. Composed and performed by Zuntata, Taito Corporation’s house band of developers, it’s a fascinating blend of drum and bass, strings, J-pop, and ethereal choir. All of which, as it turns out, is the perfect backdrop for interstellar warfare.
There’s also atmospheric little audio details, like the warning klaxon that sounds as a big boss approaches. I’m thinking of using it as a ringtone on my phone, to designate a call from undesirable persons.