MiniSquadron, a new 2D aerial dogfighting game from MrFungFung, is now available in the app store. The smooth controls, terrific soundtrack, and plethora of unlockable aircraft almost make up for the lack of online multiplayer and global leaderboards.
MiniSquadron contains 8 different maps, each of which require you to clear 12 waves of enemies to unlock the next stage. You begin by choosing your plane. There are 56 available in the game, but only one that is unlocked from the start. Success in competition will unlock other aircraft, each of which have its own weapon types, max air speed, turn rate, armor rating, and reload time, values that help you choose the right aircraft for the situation. Unlocking these new planes and “collecting” all 56 is one of the more exciting challenges in the game. Each battle pits you against a variety of enemies, from other fighter jets to UFOs to birds (they don’t put up much of a fight).
The actual gameplay is very smooth and highly enjoyable. There is a virtual joypad on the lower left side for steering, and a fire button in the lower right corner. There is no autofire option. You must tap repeatedly to unleash the force of your weapon on others. Of course, you must also dodge incoming fire from your enemies. You have 3 hearts representing your three lives. You can only take so much damage before you go down in flames. Lose all of your hearts and it’s game over. Each enemy takes multiple shots to eradicate, so patience and careful aiming are essential. The entire map takes up a few screens worth of length, so you will eventually hit a boundary. Doing so simply inverts your plane and sends it back in the opposite direction, without penalty. Any enemies off-screen are indicated by a tiny arrow, showing its altitude. Firing at these arrows is recommended as you will usually connect with a shot or two once the aircraft does appear. Shooting down planes will sometimes release a power-up, such as an extra heart, ghost mode, slow down, invincibility, or any number of other special circumstances. These power-ups don’t hold their position or fall straight to the ground, though. They dart around the screen erratically, causing much angst as you try to catch up to the bonus without taking additional fire.
Graphically, the 2D style actually works very well, and the game has a fun, slightly cartoonish vibe. The planes are relatively tiny, without a great amount of detail, which allows for maximum airspace in which to fight. Some of the aircraft is visually plain, but others are wildly imaginative, such as the one that looks like a pitchfork or the one with the panda head. The soundtrack uses a bunch of different classical music tracks, which is both relaxing and fun to listen to. The controls works amazingly well, and there is a sensitivity option to allow you to fine-tune them. Loop-the-loops and rolls are performed with ease. You must watch your screen boundaries, however, as flying too high will stall your plane and flying too low will, of course, cause you to crash. You can pull out of a stall, but the ground is unforgiving. The enemy AI is very balanced, putting up a very good challenge that should please gamers.
Replay value is pretty good, as there are lots of unlockable planes and addictively fun gameplay. This is the type of game that screams out for online multiplayer and global leaderboards, so that you can fight random people and figure out who is top dog. Unfortunately, MiniSquadron launched with only local wifi-multiplayer and local leaderboards. This puts a bit of a crimp in its replay value, but an update could fix all that quickly. There is an auto-save feature, but it only saves after every 3 waves, not at the conclusion of each wave or even wherever you are when you close out of the game. While this is acceptable, it can be frustrating if you get a call or hit the home button mid-way through the ninth wave, wiping out any progress since the conclusion of the sixth wave. Regardless of these minor gripes, MiniSquadron remains one of the more exciting games we’ve played lately. At $2.99, MiniSquadron is a great value, as this could have easily found an audience at a higher price. As much as we want to apply the 5-Dimple tag to this game, its lack of online multiplayer and leaderboards currently drops MiniSquadron to a solid 4-Dimple score.
MiniSquadron gets our AppSmile 4-Dimple rating: