Developer: MrFungFung
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★★
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★½

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

MiniSquadron is fluid, smooth, and above all, a fantastic plane-based shooter. The art is great, I love the classical music, and the combat is so much fun. That’s something coming from a girl who’s rarely delved into the 2D shooter genre. Even after I’d played with MiniSquadron enough to write a decent review, I kept coming back to it. There’s something sweet and addicting about this game, and it has personality to spare. “Polish” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Okay, okay, enough with the gushing, right? Here’s how the game works. You take control of a plane with a super-easy system: a disk on the left for steering and a button on the right for firing (yes, you can just hold it for continuous fire, too). I was thrilled to find that the controls work so well: your plane flies in whichever direction you’re tapping on the disk, and tight maneuvers are incredibly easy to pull off. Each level consists of a number of waves; with each wave, a bunch of enemies fly onto the screen, and then the shootout begins.

IMG_0229You duel other planes and bombers for the most part, but ducks, seagulls, and UFOs also make appearances. Each enemy has its own peculiar characteristics: the wildlife is harmless, but you better watch out for the UFOs. Checkpoints occur a few times per level, so if you die, you’re not down for good. You start with three lives, but depending on your plane’s armor, those three lives may last you quite a while. Powerups also appear periodically, ranging from 1-up hearts to a gigantic red laser weapon.

During the levels, you’ll unlock more planes to aid you in aerial combat. I’ve only scratched the surface of the 50+ planes available. Many planes simply offer better stats, while others fall on the sillier side; I hear, for example, that there’s a plane with the head of a giant panda. There are eight levels, though I doubt that replay value will be a problem.

There’s a lot to commend in MiniSquadron. Though levels are sometimes tough, the checkpoints at waves 3, 6, and 9 mean that you’ll never be frustrated. Enemy planes behave like players: they can grab powerups, shoot each other, and generally add a bit more chaos into the mix. Multiplayer mode via WiFi is something that I haven’t tested, but it seems like a lot of fun, too, despite the limit of 1 vs 1 combat. Collecting planes is addicting, and greatly enhances replay value.

IMG_0230There are very few problems with the game. I did notice that putting your iPhone into lock mode mid-play doesn’t pause gameplay, which is problematic but no deal-breaker. If you have something against Tchaichovsky and Beethoven, you’ll also be wishing for the next update, which adds iPod support. And, er…well, Bluetooth multiplayer would be nice. Can you tell that I’m grasping to find complaints?

MiniSquadron is an elegant, intuitive 2D shooter that should delight genre fans and total newbies alike. The difficulty is well balanced, the presentation is great, and blowing stuff up is just daggone fun. What more could you ask for? Do yourself a favor and watch the YouTube video, because still images don’t do this frantic game justice.

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