Developer: Headup Games
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S

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

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

1 - 1136x640Even though this game has some issues, the developers of Sci-Fighters cared about what they were making. The style is fresh and well-realized. The gameplay is creative and has flashes of true inspiration. Even the humor is legitimately entertaining. Still, all of this effort has only led to a good game, not a great one.

More wacky party game than skill-based fighter, Sci-Fighter’s frantic four-player brawls draw inspiration from the Power Stone and Super Smash Bros. series. Players control one of four cosmic characters all trying to be the only one not eaten by the arena’s signature giant monster. This focus on evasion and survival gives the game a unique identity beyond pure conflict, and its plethora of power-ups do a good job at supporting that concept. One gun shoots bait onto other players that draws the monster to their location. The arm power-up gives players the strength to pick up and throw their opponents right into the belly of the beast. At the very least it’s inventive.

However, in practice these new ideas don’t work quite as well as they should. Stiff touch controls mean that too many matches are lost by accidently butting up against the walls. Lackluster A.I. means that too many matches are won by just running around ignoring power-ups all together. While the tight spaces keep rounds moving at a nice pace, they also tend to discourage strategy and experimentation. Also, for as short as rounds are, the game can take way too long to load them.

At least Sci-Fighter’s charming presentation helps smooth over its gameplay shortcomings. The game pokes fun at retro sci-fi staples like “Star Trek” with jokes almost as funny as “Futurama.” Meanwhile, the slick, lunch box cartoon art style and adventurous cosmic music feel like the great big beautiful tomorrow people in the 1960s dreamt about.  The different stages also bring some funny visual touches. For example, the haunted house level replaces the typical space-themed monster with a giant, armless Dracula instead. 

Sci-Fighters presents enough exciting ideas that it’s worth experiencing regardless of its somewhat problematic gameplay. It’s just a shame that it never fully blasts off.

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