Starship Troopers was arguably a bad movie. Of course, that doesn't prevent it from being entertaining. In fact, the sheer cheesiness and ridiculous acting made it a cult classic. It's greater than the sum of its parts, appreciated in its own way.
Assault Squadron is precisely the same: a game with shortcomings that justify criticism, yet charming enough to shoot above its station. In spite of its control quirks and short campaign, there's fun to be gleaned from this classically styled shooter.
The story of humanity's defence against a surprise alien invasion is told through half a dozen stages, each of which can be played singularly in Arcade mode. Switching between portrait and landscape modes, you pilot a spaceship armed with advanced weaponry capable of blasting extraterrestrial enemies into oblivion.The flip-side
It's jarring flipping your handset every other stage - landscape levels must be played with the home button at your left, with no option to flip it the other way - but only due to the way in which it affects the controls. The visuals work well either way, but the controls don't.
Four schemes are provided: 1:1 touch, 2.5:1 touch, virtual analogue stick, and tilt. Disregard the analogue stick and tilt methods because they're incapable of providing the precision needed for evading the bullets that shower the screen.
Only the two ratio touch control schemes are passable. The 2.5:1 setting is offered by default, which places your ship slightly above where you set a finger to the screen. Naturally, the 1:1 option ties movement of the ship exactly with your finger.
Abandoning the default scheme for the 1:1 option worked best for me during portrait mode stages, as it afforded more precise control. When tackling landscape mode levels, though, it was inadequate and the 2.5:1 option fares better. Having to change the control scheme every other level is an annoyance, far more than being made to rotate your device for a proper view.Short, but sweet
Even if you find the controls suitable, universal criticism is deserved for the game's embarrassingly short campaign. A paltry six stages are offered - easily completed in an hour.
The pacing is phenomenal and the individual length of the levels is spot-on, which only fuels the sense that Assault Squadron is far shorter than it should be. It's not a complaint about the price, but about it feeling more like a demo than full game.
Granted, every moment spent in these six stages is jam-packed with action. Developer The Binary Mill clearly has an understanding of what makes a top-down/side-scrolling shooter tick. The game's brevity makes for a potent play, but it's far too short. Top-notch production values underscore this.
Despite all of the picking apart, Assault Squadron still has that crucial element of playability. It's short and the controls aren't perfect, but like Starship Troopers you can't help but enjoy the action.