The goodies vs terrorists setup has a rich history in video games, but the likes of Rainbow Six have made things a bit more nuanced. It's pretty rare for the American army to send in one troop with a rocket launcher to take care of hundreds of dissidents nowadays.
Assaulter belongs to another age. It's a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Metal Slug with huge explosions and hundreds of enemies. It looks and sounds spot on, with 16-bit style graphics and midi music accompanying the non-stop carnage.
Well, actually it's more like stop-start carnage, as this old skool title has taken on the modern characteristics of the freemium game, which limits your time per session unless you cough up some cash.Going commando
You may be wondering how a Metal Slug game can work on a touchscreen phone without utter chaos, and the answer is that it doesn't - but it comes close.
You automatically shoot at any enemy that comes into view, restricting your role to jumping, running, and rolling out of the way of oncoming fire with a slide of the finger. The game errs on the side of forgiving, but you'll still find yourself accidentally jumping into fire, or picking up items you don't want.
Between rounds you level-up and buy new equipment for your soldiers. This works well, and it's nice to see each kill making a difference in a genre more commonly associated with memorising attack patterns.Almost free lunch
Unfortunately the small print of the freemium model is about as welcome in this war on terror as defence department budget cuts. To its credit, this isn't a game that forces you to spend real money if you have the patience, but it does artificially put energy limits on your three troops.
This means they get roughly three missions each before getting tired and needing either a rest with real-time recuperation, or food bought from the in-game shop. You can spend money earned through the game or top-up with real money.
This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't need to replay missions over and over again to grind out experience points to unlock further levels. This combines nastily with the aforementioned playing cap, so that the time you spend waiting to get back on is then spent replaying old levels you've already completed.
The game does offer you one way of getting 'free' money, and it's a wholly dishonest one. Rate the game five stars, and you get $5000. It's clearly working – the Android Market is full of 5 star ratings, and you don't have to go off the front page to see somebody admitting that's its purely for the bribe.
It's a shame, because Assaulter is a decent title, with an innovative spin to make an age old genre work on smartphones.
But its dishonest promotion leaves a nasty taste, which may incline you to remember its ropey moments over its action-packed best.