MiniSquadron [AppStore] brings to the platform a re-imagination of classic PC games such as Subspace Continuum and Soldat, but does so more in the fashion of the more recently released Altitude. Essentially, MiniSquadron is a 2D side-scrolling, physics-based aerial dog-fighting game. If you think that was a mouthful, MiniSquadron boasts 8 different levels, each with 12 increasingly challenging rounds and a whopping 56 different planes to unlock over the course of the game.
The game begins with you manning a simple, somewhat slow fixed wing aircraft, capable of firing only a single machine gun. Round to round you are presented with additional and varied enemy types to take down, each with their own attacking style, agility and armor. Through use of a virtual analog stick you control only the pitch of your plan, able to send it into loop-the-loops and other complex maneuvers as you wrestle for the most advantageous position in which to fire. You unleash your bullets by tapping on the right-hand side of the screen.
These straight-forward controls complement the frantic nature of the game; a fact that ramps up in no time as you find yourself facing an overwhelming number of enemy combatants, particularly in the latter rounds of each level. In order to master MiniSquadron, you have to become intimately familiar with your plane’s speed, turning circle and weapon of choice, as you’ll find yourself dodging a hail of fire from tens of other planes almost simultaneously while trying to whittle them down one-by-one. The combat really is MiniSquadron’s high water mark; an all-out romp that action fans should warm to immediately.
MiniSquadron rewards your progress and feats with plane unlocks; each plane different to the next, with its own speed, armor and turning attributes. Additionally, planes that you unlock will possess one of several weapons, which start off as just additional guns, but later take the form of the cluster bomb for example, requiring a completely new approach to your aerial acrobatics to get the most out of. A range of in-game power-ups also bolster your arsenal, with quick burst omnipotent weaponry such as the Big Laser providing some of the more memorable experiences, in a throwback to the over-the-top Street Fighter super attacks.
The game is presented in its own charming, cartoony fashion, with smoke trails, weapons and plane damage effects looking particularly terrific. The variety (and eccentricity) of planes to unlock is impressive; with panda-faced planes to UFOs being awarded for completing certain requirements each level.
The 8 worlds to tackle are each accompanied by well-recognised classical compositions. Unfortunately, the current version does not support use of your own music; so if you do have something against classical music you’re out of luck until the developer pushes through an update- something that is being looked into according to posts on our discussion forum.
MiniSquadron also offers local WiFi play, which whilst a nice addition, seems a little out of place for a game that shines far more when heavily populated by combatants. If you can manage to get a few friends together though, there’s no doubt that there is a heap of competitive fun to be had here. MiniSquadron does seem far more suited to online play however, and its absence is notable seeing as how that was the hallmark of games on which it is based.
All in all however, MiniSquadron can be thoroughly recommended both to those who wish to take a trip down memory lane and to those who are new to the 2D dog-fighting genre. It is a well-rounded package that can be breezed through in a couple of hours, but offers you replayability as you unlock and learn to master the many different planes composing your sizable squadron. The game is also seeing overwhelmingly positive impressions in from our discussion forums.