Price: $0.99 (3/17 on sale)
Version Reviewed: 1.12
Pros :: Excellent touch and tilt controls; satisfying weapons; good sound effects; difficulty curve feels right.
Cons :: Repetitive; strange gameplay tics; doesn't keep track of score; no iPod.
Bottom Line :: Heavy Mach's a fun action game, although it has room to improve.
We immediately thought of one thing when we first saw IndieAn's Heavy Mach.: Metal Slug. As it turns out, though, Heavy Mach's resemblance to that hallowed action series is pretty superficial—they're both fun side-scrolling shooters, but in many ways, Heavy Mach. really plays like it was built for the iPhone from the ground up. In spite of its gameplay quirks and creative limitations, we definitely enjoyed our time with it.
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[/caption]In Heavy Mach., you control a tank that trundles from left to right, blowing everything in its path to pieces (stop us if you've heard this before). The controls are easy to pick up. Gentle tilting advances the tank or throws it into reverse, you aim your weapon by sliding your thumb up and down the right side of the screen, and your left thumb controls your jump throttle and switches weapons. The game's separated into several big stages, which are divided into four or five submissions each. If you take a certain amount of damage from enemy guns, or fall into a pit, you'll fail the mission and have to restart it.
A lot of care went into Heavy Mach.'s core shooting and dodging action, and it shows. The game's pacing is slower than many similar action games, but that's not a bad thing at all, because it gives you a chance to weave back and forth around streams of enemy fire; it's also much easier to control yourself in midair, which is vital on later levels.
Meanwhile, all you have to do to return fire is keep your finger on the screen to autofire, while sliding up and down to adjust the angle of your gun. The main gun packs a punch and has infinite ammo, so it's very useful. There are several other kinds of mortars, rockets, and air strikes to deploy to devastating effect as well, and they're refilled by picking up powerup crates. Also, every so often your tank will gain a level, allowing you to put points into maneuverability, armor, or gunnery.
We had a whale of a time juking and jumping around while shooting everything in sight. The graphics are crisp, clean and professional, and the various military vehicles you're fighting against are very detailed. They look even better when they blow up. We also liked the game's sound effects, which are evocative of mechanized warfare. It's a shame you can't play your own music, though.
We were also bugged by Heavy Mach.'s somewhat repetitive level design. There are many different kinds of tanks, APCs, choppers, and howitzers to kill, but once you've seen one, you've basically seen them all. The huge boss vehicles are more fun, but they don't really attack you in any novel way. At least the game keeps you challenged in the later levels by throwing new combinations of enemies at you.
Furthermore, Heavy Mach. has some weird loose ends in its gameplay. For instance, there's no collision detection, so you can drive right through enemies with no ill effects; in fact, you can motor past sizable chunks of the game without firing a shot if you want to (you won't). Plus, your tank never turns around, so you can't fire behind you. Nor does Heavy Mach seem to keep track of your score, which is odd for a game of this kind.
So, Heavy Mach. isn't a Must Have just yet. For that, IndieAn needs to take some next steps, such as fixing collision detection, adding new kinds of enemies, and allowing players to shoot missiles out of the air. Nevertheless, this is still a diverting action game, and it gets our recommendation.