Neon Shadow mixes nostalgia and modernity to create a consistently entertaining blend of gorgeous graphics and classic FPS gaming. It's smooth, it handles the limitations of touchscreen controls well, and it thrills from the first to the last.
It might not have the scope of one of Gameloft's titles, but this futuristic blaster throws in a wealth of excellent touches and clever ideas that lift it above the crowd.
Same-device multiplayer rubs shoulders with a grimacing, bloodied face that tells you how injured you are. And everything gels together to create a coherent and consistent experience full of robotic violence and towering bosses.
Throw in a meaty multiplayer mode and you're left with one of the best FPS packages available on the App Store today.
The game is set on a troubled space station. You play as a grunt who's dropped in to investigate. Unsurprisingly, the AI has gone rogue and is intent on self-actualisation, and you're the only one who can stop it.
The single-player campaign is broken up into chunky levels. They all follow the same basic template - find a node, shoot it, then get to the elevator to move on to the next level. There's almost always an arrow pointing you in the right direction, so it's pretty difficult to get lost.
Along the way you're beset by the robotic legions of the AI. Wheeled robot dogs with lasers for mouths hack at your legs, drones hover around blasting out balls of red energy, and turrets slip from hatches in the ceiling to rain death on you.
There are four weapons to collect, from a lowly shotgun to a futuristic blob gun that fires out gobbets of explosive plasma that destroy anything they touch.
The action sits just on the right side of frantic. The standard touchscreen FPS controls are here, but there's no jumping, reloading, or interacting to clog the screen with buttons. You move with a thumb on the left of the screen, and look with a thumb on the right. A floating button lets you shoot.
An unreal blast
It makes for an easy-to-pick-up shooter that's rarely frustrating. You're pretty tough, too, so a control malfunction rarely ends in untimely death, and there's enough ammo and health scattered around, especially on easier difficulty settings, that you can regroup after an onslaught pretty quickly.
You're graded at the end of each level, with the best scores awarded for finding all the secrets, killing all the robots, and getting to the elevator in a decent amount of time. It adds an extra layer to proceedings, and means multiple playthroughs are rewarded.
The shooting is swift and satisfying, and making your way through a particularly hectic firefight leaves you with a grin on your face. The old techniques all still work here, and keeping on the move is the only way to stay alive.
As well as online and LAN multiplayer modes, you can use your iPad with a friend to play through the game. It's a great idea, and there's enough screen real estate on Apple's tablet for it to work surprisingly well. Expect to see the idea in a lot more shooters from now on.
Quaking in your boots
Neon Shadow might not be the most original game in the world, but it stakes a claim to being the best FPS on the App Store. Its violence is smooth and smart, and the extra touches it adds to the age-old Doom template make for exciting, modern-feeling destruction.
It's not perfect, but Neon Shadow has flashes of true brilliance, and while the backdrops get a little repetitive after a while, the sheer fun to be found from its straightforward blasting more than makes up for it.
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