Developer: Firi Games
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Flare Elite is a top-down space shooter featuring a unique, innovative control scheme, lengthy missions with upgradeable ship components and an original soundtrack. While Flare Elite is not a “bullet hell” shooter, it’s a challenging entry in the genre and offers aggressive enemies who can be tough to take down.

The premise behind Flare Elite is this: You play as a space pilot who is tasked with destroying a battle station called Omega, in a far-reaching outpost somewhere in the galaxy. Each campaign is titled, e.g. the first is called “Humble Beginnings,” and contains instructions for what you, as a pilot, must do to complete each mission.

The game screen consists of a pause button and Power level in the upper, left-hand corner and player score and multiplier in the upper, right corner. As you kill enemies/enemy craft, they leave behind colored dots which players pick up to increase their power level. Once this level reaches zero, it’s game over.

In addition to the above, two green circles reside at the bottom of the screen: One serves as a horizontal axis and the other a vertical axis for player controls/movement. Players control their ship by placing a thumb on each circle and sliding upwards to advance the ship forward and sliding left to right to move their ship left/right.

Firi Games lauds their control scheme as unique and innovative, designed so that players can control their ship without obscuring the game screen, but I have to disagree. While this particular control scheme is unique and ultimately does work, I found it to be slightly cumbersome and superfluous. What happened to controlling with only one finger? How can using two fingers be more beneficial than only one (unless you’re scooping chocolate icing from a bowl)? While I appreciate its uniqueness, there’s no need to try and reinvent the wheel. That said, this control scheme works, but feels more gimmicky than innovative.

Prior to beginning each mission, players have the opportunity to select their weapon type (there are 5 in all, unlocked as the game progresses). Each weapon possesses a special Overdrive feature, activated by tapping in the center of the screen. Once you select your weapon, you slide a red button (very similar to when you power down your iPhone) and begin your mission. Players also have the opportunity to upgrade their ship, e.g. shield, power, etc.

Flare Elite’s graphics are clean and simple. In lieu of the traditional menu interface, it features a 3D-style Star Map, which players navigate using touch swipes. The Star Map also shows player progress throughout the 13 available missions. I found this approach to be refreshing and enjoyed swiping my way across the galaxy. The game’s sound track has a retro-80’s feel to it and the sound effects could have been crisper/cleaner. Players have the option of listening to their own music, in lieu of the game’s built-in sound track.

Despite its flaws, Flare Elite is a solid entry into the vertical shooter genre. It’s fun and challenging with a unique Star Map navigation system and a nice arsenal of upgradable weaponry that will keep you occupied for hours.

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