"You Can Do Barrel Rolls"
I have been yearning to play an on-rails, arcade-style shooter akin to the classic Star Fox formula – before plodding foot-missions and crazy dinosaur adventures got involved – for years now. Since Nintendo has been hesitant to promote their furry space-faring protagonist with a new game despite their newly released and capable hardware, I have been encouraged to find my fix elsewhere. Luckily, the developers at Psyonix have taken their talents the ubiquitous mobile game route to fill that very distinct void with ARC Squadron.
As with the aforementioned Star Fox series, replayability is available in droves. Rote memorization of level layouts and enemy appearances and patterns makes for some compelling gameplay as you attempt to procure an ever-higher score. Achieving the four-star score is where the challenge comes into play. Beyond just chaining kills, you must also collect floating cubes, which requires great attention.
As your ship's crosshairs line up with an enemy's locations, your primary weapon will automatically fire. Your ship also has a secondary weapon that requires a tap of the screen to execute. Destroy enemies in rapid succession and score multipliers will help you accrue massive points. In addition to the main campaign's levels and boss battles, side missions called Wormholes offer various objectives that test your skills beyond shooting things down to help break up the major mechanics.
As is the case with games controlled wholly by a capacitive touch screen, ARC Squadron does not offer the precise control that a tactile controller would afford. However, the single-swiping finger gestures you use to control the direction and speed of your spaceship are decently effective in tense situations that require some quicker reaction times. Pick-up-and-play accessibility is tantamount to a game like this, and you will be barrel-rolling your way to success with relative ease.
For such an affordable game, ARC Squadron is quite robust in scope. Beyond the addictive gameplay, a grand and attractive space setting awaits. While I am more a fan of stellar art direction than pretty graphics, Psyonix's use of Unreal Engine does grant an attractive package.
With the Hangar option, you have the ability to spend the ARC Bucks that you acquire from the main campaign. You can purchase newer ships with differing traits and more powerful weapons. It is a simple process, but it does add a nice bit of customization to the whole ordeal, offering incentives to continue playing. You can, of course, just spend real money to get the best equipment and ships immediately, but thankfully, everything in ARC Squadron is unlockable without having to spend an extra cent. Normally, that would mean long wait times or grinding in order to get to the good stuff, but when the core game is so solid and addictive, why would you want to fast-track your way through the campaign?
While it may not completely replicate the polish of a classic Star Fox title, ARC Squadron does an admirable job of filling a rather sizeable gaming genre space.
GameDynamo's Score for Arc Squadron (Mobile)
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Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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