Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Walk 10 paces, turn, and then draw your gun. That's how a good, old-fashioned duel to the death used to be. Spin that forward to the year 3042, and what you get is a back-and-forth, laser-scorching projectile battle like none other. Battle Blasters is the sci-fi evolution of the one-on-one shoot-out, and it's a good deal of fun. For their first iPhone game, Little Guy Games have delivered a long-range fighting game that has an excellent art style, smooth controls, and a subtle amount of depth.
Battle Blasters has three game modes: Campaign, a single match Quick Play, and Multiplayer. There are 6 characters to choose from, 4 of which can be unlocked by completing the campaign on the 4 different difficulty levels of Easy, Medium, Hard and Supreme. Each campaign consists of best of 3 rounds matches against all 6 of the characters, including the one you've selected.
When your ready to face-off, your character is placed on the bottom of the screen, with your opponent on the top. You can move side-to-side by simply tapping or dragging anywhere on the bottom half of the screen. You have 3 attacks at your disposal: a quick shot, a slower power shot, and a special attack. A quick shot is performed by quickly swiping upwards in the desired direction, and it causes minimal damage. A power shot is performed with a slower flick, but it can be easier to avoid because of the reduced speed. Power shots have the added benefit of destroying any weak shots in their way, whereas two strong shots that meet will cancel each other out. This adds a nice layer of strategy to the mix, as power attacks can be used in a defensive manner as well, and the patterns of your shots can be used to move your enemies into vulnerable positions. There is also a limit to how many shots you can fire in rapid succession, and each character has visible meters with slots that show your recharging ammo.
Each character has a significantly different special attack in their arsenal. These special abilities include such game-changers as a straight-ahead dagger, unstoppable shots, protective barriers that act as delayed shots, the absorption of attacks, a freeze beam, and a super-charged shot. Besides these unique abilities, each character has different attributes for attack, defense, and speed. When you combine all these elements, there are a lot of little details that add some layers of strategy and depth to each match. Successfully combo-ing your shots for consecutive hits increases the strength, recharge speed, and score of your attacks as well. Repeated play-throughs reveal all of these underlying elements, and ramping up the difficulty makes you beef up your tactics and overall game as a result. Things can get hard pretty quick, with some characters becoming your seeming nemesis, which makes their eventual conquest very satisfying.
The only multiplayer option currently available in Battle Blasters is a simple shared device mode. You'll have to place your iPhone/iPod on a non-slippery surface and play head-to-head while sitting across from each other. This can be fun and kind of old school in nature, but it's severely limited and you should expect to be butting fingers in the process. Luckily, Little Guy Games are already beta-testing device-to-device multiplayer via Bluetooth, and have full online multiplayer in their sights as well. Fighting games have always been considered at their best when played against friends, so the increased multiplayer would do much to extend the life and enjoyment of the title.
Besides the limited multiplayer, Battle Blasters is somewhat lacking in a few departments where some tweaking could really help to flesh out the experience even further. There is a global leaderboard of sorts via Facebook only, where final scores for all difficulty levels are jumbled into one list. There is no way to see your scores locally in the game. A more expansive solution for both local and global leaderboards would seem ideal. There are also no options for setting the number of rounds or choosing the background. This would be especially convenient in the Quick Play mode. As for the modes themselves, it would be nice to have Survival and Practice added, as they are fairly common staples of the genre. These are fairly straightforward additions that would add to an already good game, as should the eventual inclusion of more characters and/or costumes. Some simple story elements like those on the accompanying website would be great as well, as the backdrop is intriguing and it’s obvious that much care has been put into the quality of the overall design.
Battle Blasters is a very consistent effort that looks and plays equally well. While pretty satisfying when played for short bursts, those looking to master the game will be rewarded by the game's subtle nuances. The multiplayer aspect is definitely limited as-is, but is undeniably fun. I would love to see the Battle Blasters universe expanded upon by even more than just the confirmed updates, as the current package is both polished and interesting. The game might not convert the most ardent non-enthusiasts of the fighting genre, but it's perfectly crafted for the platform. It offers a unique thrill that is easy to pick-up, but may be hard to put down.
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