Apple has finally approved and released EspressoSoft's StarSmasher [App Store], an accelerometer controlled "on-rails" space shooter for the iPhone.

Priced at only $2.99, the game was designed to offer a relatively simple fly and shoot arcade experience. The gameplay involves dodging asteroids, shooting enemies, and avoiding landmines, as you try to build up your score. Each game offers you 3 space ships and a shield indicator. As you get bounced around by asteroids and enemy fire, your shields will weaken until your ship is ultimately destroyed. The game does offer two in-game "power ups" including a 25% shield boost and temporarily improved laser-fire.

As with many accelerometer based games, the controls take some getting used to. There is no calibration mode offered so gameplay is restricted to the pre-defined view angle. The developer reports that the 1.0.1 update is already undergoing review and should introduce faster gameplay, smoother controls, auto-fire mode and more control over the firing angle.

Overall, a fun and well executed single level shooter that's appropriately priced at $2.99. Those hoping for more game levels or depth may be disappointed as the game can seem a bit repetitive, but fans of the strict "shoot'em up" genre may be pleased.

Game Details
Name: StarSmasher (v1.0) Price: 2.99 [Buy]
Developer: espressoSoft Size: 4.5MB
In Brief: StarSmasher is a very fun and well executed single level shooter that’s appropriately priced at $2.99. Fans of this “shoot’em up” genre should be pleased. Accelerometer controls take some getting used to, and will be tweaked in the next version.

TouchArcade Rating

  • mavis

    Finally! I'm just finishing up my 32nd restore and will play this as soon as it's done. Thanks for the review!!

  • mikeadams

    just bought it and played it for a few minutes. seems pretty cool, although sometimes to steer from the bottom of the screen to the top you basically have to flip your ipod over. if the movement was more sensitive itd be even better. but totally worth 2.99

  • arn


    The controls take some practice. they aren't as insensitive as they seem. The controls are very "loose" in that there's a fair amount of drift. So you can't correct on a dime. Give it some time. You get better, but I believe the drift is by design.

    the update may tweak the controls a bit.


  • mavis

    After giving it a spin, one thing comes to mind: INVERTED CONTROLS. I can't play it the way it is now (it feels very counter-intuitive) and so I really hope the developer adds that option.

  • John

    I'm waiting until my new ipod touch comes in the mail, then I'm getting this one instantly!

  • MicroByte

    @mavis - I agree, inverted controls would be great. I left my review for this game and that was one thing I wish could have been added. Maybe a future update will add an options menu and also pause functionality.

  • arn

    Anyone else have any crashing issues? Mine may have been my iPhone-specific somehow, as a I had another app crash out similarly. I"m going to do a restore shortly. I removed crashing references in the review because I wasn't sure now.


  • John Bowers

    @mavis & @MicroByte

    I hear you about the inverted controls. I'll try to add that into the next update. I felt, I guess, that the non-inverted controls were more intuitive because you can almost imagine that you are balancing the ship on top of the iphone. When you tilt it the ship follows gravity by "rolling" off the screen in the direction of your tilt. I do understand that many people prefer inverted controls for flight sims, however.


    About the crashing: I haven't personally ever had a crash on my development device so its going to be hard for me to find the bug. The best thing you can do to help me fix the bug is to leave me detailed information about what the game state was like when the crash occurred. You can do this by commenting on the feedback page on my site:

    I worked really hard to make sure that SS didn't have any memory leaks or object allocation problems, so I want to clear up bugs as quickly as possible.

    Its curious that you are having the problem on an iPhone. I developed on an iPod Touch and have never had a chance to test the game on an iPhone. I have personally had a few problems with the 2.0 firmware where the game can be really choppy. When this has happened, however, all games on the touch have been choppy and I've had to restart to get back to a decent state.

    Thanks for all the feedback so far, everyone!

  • James

    I bought it and it's great for the low price!

  • James

    Great game! Maybe a sequel will bring updated gameplay...

  • Michael

    Downloaded it as soon as I found out it was available so hopefully it's as fun as it looks.

  • mavis

    @ John: thanks for the info. I'm really looking forward to the update, as without inverted controls the game is unplayable (this seems to be a common sentiment - people here, at MacRumors, and the App Store have echoed this request) ...

    Anyway, the game has lots of potential and we're glad to have non-greedy + talented developers like yourself making apps for our phones! Keep up the good work!

  • John Bowers


    I'm testing the inverted controls right now and hopefully I'll have an update out to Apple within the next hour. The new update (1.0.2) will have the a new settings menu that allows you to change the "difficulty" (game speed) between easy (which is what it is set on now), medium, and hard (of course, I personally find easy pretty hard but some people just want to fly faster, you know?), invert the controls (as requested), and a rudimentary calibration feature.

    The calibration feature doesn't work if the device is calibrated to be completely vertical, or way outside the normal operating bounds (like tilted sideways), but you can change the angle a bit between completely horizontal to a little more than 60 degrees or so without problem. In fact, before I submit to Apple I'd like to hear back from you guys (so maybe I'll give it until this afternoon): would you rather have a calibration feature that works when the device is not in too crazy a position but basically doesn't work at all otherwise or have no calibration feature at all until I can figure out how to do it better?

    I'm going to keep working on the calibration but I decided it would be better to give some control over the center even if its not perfect.

    My current plan for releases is now this:

    1.1: Complete overhaul of the UI to use multiple views and less GL text.
    1.2: Rewrite of the sound engine and find or engineer some better sounds. (I personally play without sounds because I like to listen to my iPod while playing, as such the sounds suffered a bit, I think, because I didn't pay as much attention to them.)

  • Daniel Glover

    The game is very cool. I would like to see a sensitivity option and make your lazer fire stand out a bit more. Have the lazers glow brighter and grow in size when you get the lazer power-up.

  • Oliver


    I think there should be more reaction when flying into asteroids. Currently, the ship is gently moved to the side of the asteroid. I didn't even recognize this, until I saw that my shield power decreases each time. It would be nice if the shields could flicker a bit and there should be something like a "bzzzzzzzzzz" sound when "touching" the asteroids.

    The controls are to soft. I don't want to fly faster, but I want to steer faster.

    I'm also missing a ranking. Or was I just blind?

    And of course, well, some music would be nice. Like in the old Wing Commander games.

    Currently, I like the game (and bought it), but I don't see myself as being long-time motivated :(.


  • John Bowers


    Thanks for the suggestions. The ranking is after the credits, I'll put it first so you don't tap out of it. I'm working on how to deal with the sounds. As for the controls, I'll play with them a bit. They are acceleration based to create that smooth feel but I understand that a bit faster could be better so I'll see what I can do.

  • John Bowers

    Ok. Shipped a 1.0.2 update to apple with the following improvements (hopefully we'll see it in a few days).

    Inverted control option.
    Game difficulty settings.
    Way vamped up control acceleration (50%).

    It will probably take a little more getting used to with the new acceleration b/c it will require a bit more finesse, I think. I'm going to start a thread in the forum to discuss the controls b/c I would really like to talk this out with everyone and come to some consensus on the best way to move forward.

  • Pingback: FingerGaming - Gaming on the iPhone and iPod Touch » » Review Roundup()

  • mavis

    Hey John - I just wanted to thank you for the email you sent me - I appreciate your efforts to not only address the control 'issues' but also to keep us up to date with your progress! Hopefully Apple won't drag their feet too long on the update ... 😉

    Anyway I'm really looking forward to playing the game once the update arrives. And I hope to see more work from you in the future - given the response here and in the App Store to this game, I'm assuming (and hoping!) that you're going to see enough income from this app to warrant devoting more time to this and future projects.

    Also, I would like to mention again (in case any other developers see this!) that your price point is PERFECT - so many developers are trying to extract every last penny from their customers and in doing so are really limiting their sales, IMO. It's great to see a game like this priced so reasonably - very refreshing! Keep up the good work!

  • Constable Odo

    Probably a stupid question, but would a game like this put a lot of wear and tear on the iPhone or iPod Touch display to the point of damaging the sensitivity of the display. Firing requires a heck of a lot of tapping.

    How does one's finger feel after playing this game for a half hour. Most game players have buttons that give and flex, but this just as a hard solid surface. I guess the tip of the finger would get a bit numb, right?

    Other than those questions, this looks like a fairly nice game that should be fun to play.

  • Daniel Glover

    You don't have to tap the screen to fire. You touch and hold to automatically rapid fire.

  • denverpodder

    Off to a great start indeed. I see a lot of potential here. Love the graphics and sound. But, this may as well be a demo game. The controls are ridiculously impossible at this point, the asteroid field repetitive, and the point of the game hard to figure out. Try inserting a plot, inverting and calibrating the controls, and working on some variety. You've already constructed the basic physics and game concept. Finish it and you will have a $9.99 title.

  • Noah

    Inverted Controls as an option = awesome.
    Story Mode = even better.

  • John Bowers


    The inverted controls should now be available on the App Store via an update. I've got the 1.0.3 out for review now with the following updates:

    -A new class of grey asteroid that is virtually indestructible (with normal weapons).
    -More feedback when you are hit and/or you hit the minelayer.
    -New "pretty" menus which really help make the game look polished.

    I'm working on the 1.0.4 update which will have a level based game mode. I still haven't quite figured out how to add a "story" but I'm working on it. I imagine the 1.0.3 update will be available on Thursday (hopefully) so I'm shooting for having some basic levels by then (its going to take a slight redesign of the game engine, I had really imagined a single level game when I designed it). I'm thinking about splitting it into a level-based mode and a "free fly" mode which will basically be the same as the 1.0.3 update.

  • Fox McCloud

    Include the ability to do a barrel roll in the next update

    Also hire some level designers for some level packs, not just in space but probably against a space armada and on some planets

  • Pingback: First Look Video at ‘Venger’ - a 3D Space Shooter | Smartphone User Guide()