The App Store isn't exactly wanting for retro-enthused arcade shooters, but that doesn't mean games like the recently released P.3 can't repackage classic ideas in a way that gives them an entirely new lease of life. It comes to us from indie developer Sooyun Jang, who, if the quality of their first title is any indication, has skill aplenty and style to spare.
Your stated goal on the game's store page is simple: save space. You tap or hold down the left or right buttons to begin moving and firing in either direction. Controls initially feel quite strange, and I think this is because your ship will always drift in the direction of your last button tap, regardless of whether you're still pressing to go that way. This causes a good deal of grief in the moments when you're required to squeeze through tight gaps, as you furiously tap left then right to readjust your direction.
You can also trigger your ship's alternate weapon by holding down both touchscreen buttons at the same time. Doing so will temporarily slow you down, so it's all about being smart and picking the right moment to whale on your enemies with lasers and missiles.
Things start out simple enough, with basic enemies serving up only the slightest challenge, though you'll soon be required to weave your way through spike-filled tunnels one moment before racing to outrun a rapidly expanding, fungal-looking green mass the next.
And despite the risk of sensory overload, it's all just so cool to look at, with its rippling effects and striking, minimalist palette forming a distinct and borderline hypnotic visual experience. As you'd expect from a retro throwback, the music is also catchy as all hell without ever bordering on being annoying.
Of course, what would a game like P.3 be without a varied selection of hard-as-nails bosses? Along the way, I fought several giant, laser-shooting eyes, a flying pair of metallic gloves, and a creepy space worm. I also levelled up my dinky ship with reinforced armour, powerful missiles, and a devastating laser beam.
One big issue that persisted throughout was the lack of level select or any sort of save feature. It's not a roguelike or a traditional lives-based arcade game; you can pick up from where you died as long as you don't close down the app. It doesn't feel like something that's really been given much thought, which is especially strange considering how fine-tuned every other aspect of the game is.
Coming down to land
Despite this recurring annoyance, I've been drawn back time and again to keep on going, getting further on almost every run. It's such a smart, tidy execution of a simple premise that I can't help but admire the skill and passion that's so clearly gone into it.
The visuals are intense, the combat even more so; and its bosses are almost all memorable, distinct, and challenging but fair. Most will likely be put off by the lack of a save system or its high level of difficulty, but Sooyun Jang's P.3 is a strange, perhaps incomplete game that's absolutely worth braving.Click here to get all the latest coverage of the biggest new games in our reviews section.