BackFire review
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BackFire review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on January 29th, 2019
Rating: starstarstarstarstar :: DEVILISHLY DIFFICULT
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BackFire is tough as nails in all the right ways.

Developer: Joel Rochon

Price: $2.99
Version: 1.02
App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar

BackFire is a super hard game. Like, really, really hard. It’s only got four levels, but each of them will likely take you many tries before you get even close to beating them. This is all by design though. This tough-as-nails arcade arena shooter tests both your skills and your patience in all the right ways.

Watch your back

BackFire is reminiscent of something like Geometry Wars, though it's not just a simple dual-stick shooter. In this game, you can’t really move and shoot independently with the ship you’re piloting. Rather, you fire your gun automatically away from the direction you are traveling. Hence, the name.

Your ship moves in a straight line automatically, but you can tap anywhere on screen to make it change its course instantly. In changing course, your ship also gets a small, temporary speed boost. Using these simple commands, you need to avoid and kill waves of unrelenting enemies as they chase you down.

Up your arsenal

If enemies chase you and you automatically fire backward, BackFire should be a breeze, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. Enemies in the game are durable, fast, and tricky, often not following cleanly behind you for you to hit them all the time. You need to be careful to line up your shots just right, all while making sure you aren’t running headlong into another enemy or arena wall.

When an enemy does happen to catch you, you don't immediately die or anything. Instead, the game goes into slow motion and pixelated blood starts spewing from your ship as you wildly tap on screen to try and break free from your attackers. If you do so before your health bar runs out, you can keep fighting. Otherwise, you die and have to start the level over again. After death, you can then spend any souls (collectibles dropped by dead enemies) you’ve collected between runs and use it to upgrade your ship’s weaponry, resilience, and more.

Soul cycle

BackFire follows a brutally simple and effective gameplay loop: play, die, upgrade, repeat. This will happen A LOT in the game, especially considering you start out woefully unskilled and under-equipped to face BackFire’s crazy hard levels. Fortunately, BackFire’s upgrade system is both satisfying and effective at helping you learn the game so you can slowly but surely make your way further into it.

Lots of games start really hard and get easier thanks to upgrades, but there’s something special about the way BackFire presents itself. In addition to being an arena shooter with a meaningfully different and engaging combat system, BackFire’s enemy design is downright chilling, both in terms of how your foes look and how they act. Spiders will skitter terrifyingly quickly toward you when they aren’t behind you, robot cubes will multiply themselves as they whir their way ever closer to your tail, and the bosses… oh the bosses. They are frustratingly difficult, but beatable. And beating a boss in BackFire makes you feel like a champion.

The bottom line

BackFire’s difficulty curve might make you hate it at times, but its design is fair enough that you’re always jumping back in to see if you can best it. What helps is that the game has an ingenious upgrade system that always lets you make progress, even if you’re just banging your head against a level repeatedly. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: all of this feels completely intuitive and easy-to-control on a touch screen. Do yourself a favor and get BackFire. It’s one of the best arena shooters available on the App Store.

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