App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Generally speaking, vertical shooters (shmups, if you must) and I don’t tend to get along. I can appreciate cool ideas in classics like Ikaruga, but the amount of time and dedication necessary to become good at these games is off-putting. Planet Automata doesn’t have this problem. This shooter strikes a good balance between bullet hell and accessibility in a way I really appreciate.
Rodent vs. robot
In Planet Automata, you play as a hamster in a space ship who is assigned the tall task of taking down an army of robots. In traditional shooter style, you do this by flying through various levels and destroying any and all enemies in your path.
The action of Planet Automata takes place over six stages with six bosses, but you need to play carefully in order to see all of it. If at any point you die on a run, you have to start the game over again from the beginning.
Space to breathe
Like many mobile shooters, Planet Automata has a one-touch control scheme. You simply tap and drag on the screen to control your ship, while it does all of the shooting automatically. If at any point things get a little too intense, you can also activate a bomb button that clears the screen, gives you some brief invulnerability before continuing the action as normal.
This is all fairly conventional stuff, but it’s all placed in a game that has a good sense of difficulty. The bullet patterns and enemy density in Planet Automata feel both challenging and manageable, which isn’t something I can typically say of games in this genre. Also in the game’s easy mode, you’re provided a healthy amount of bombs to help you see the experience through to the end.
When playing Planet Automata, there’s a great sense of tension. Between its run-based nature and balanced difficulty, each second you spend in the game makes you more nervous about things going south.
All that said, Planet Automata does suffer from being a bit too straightforward. There are no powerups or other special mechanics that switch up the action at any point. You move and shoot in exactly one way throughout the whole game. Enemy designs change, bullet patterns get tighter, and the soundtrack gets more interesting as you get further into the game, but otherwise there isn’t much to look forward to as you move through the game.
The bottom line
Few shooters I’ve played successfully create the tension I’m looking for. Planet Automata solves this problem by tuning its difficulty and making itself a run-based game. I wish there were some other changes this game made to genre conventions, if only for the sake of variety. Still though, Planet Automata is a fun and accessible shooter that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did.