Battle Blasters [App Store], the first release from developers Little Guy Games, is a one-on-one, top-down action shooter tuned for multiplayer. While plenty of good things can be said about the single player, the real potential for this game lies in the (local-only for now) multiplayer.
Combat in Battle Blasters is controlled using a variety of on-screen taps and swipes. The battlers can only move on a horizontal plane to dodge attacks; a simple touch on the bottom area of the screen will lead your fighter out of danger's way, and a swipe in the area above your character will cause him/her to attack. A fast swipe away from the selected fighter will send out a quick attack in the form of some sort of laser beam and a slow swipe will send out a slower, more powerful attack that has the power to stop enemy beams in mid-flight. Swiping down will cause your battler to reflect nearly any attack, a technique that will prove itself to be extremely useful for turning the tide on an overly aggresive opponent.
There are six different characters to choose from in Battle Blasters, and each one has a special ability (along with unique attributes in movement speed, attack power, and defensive categories) which can be activated in battle by simply tapping the character. Jerett, the initially unlocked character, has the ability to quickly fire destructive rockets, Maya can absorb enemy attacks to add to her total ammo capacity, and Animus can fire difficult-to-stop dual cannon shots, to name only a few.
The special powers force players to adapt their play style in significant ways depending on who they're facing. This is all done in a way that manages to avoid unbalancing the game or making some characters inherently better than others. Some characters, especially Maya and End, require a little extra patience to fully grasp, but I feel that they too could be highly effective in the hands of an experienced player.
I've always heard fans of fighting games talk about how the greatest reason for their love of the genre is the level of total connection with a character that players get once the game has been mastered. Avid Street Fighter players speak about a certain point after memorizing every character's moveset where everything becomes all one giant mindgame with an opponent. When two players have total control and knowledge of how to pull off any move in a fighting game, the game evolves into something much more complex than a simple button-masher that it may appear to be to the uninitiated.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of fighting games, but as I played and eventually conquered Battle Blasters, I began to finally understand what those fighting game fanatics were raving on about. Just as with fighting games, Battle Blasters contains a hidden level of strategic depth that, once discovered, really changes the nature of the game. Instead of simply blasting away with what seems like a good combination of strong and weak attacks, players will begin to be able to foresee potential combo opportunities and draw out weaknesses in an enemy's defenses by throwing off their game with unexpected and creative techniques, effectively using mind games on their opponents.
Battle Blasters does feature same-device simultaneous multiplayer, but that doesn't work so well due to the physical constraints of playing on a single 3.5" screen. So, where the game would shine would be the inclusion of online multi-player -- a feature that is said to be planned for a future update.
In the meanwhile, it's still worth picking up now to enjoy the single player (because it's totally a blast), and hone those skills for the fateful day that online does arrive. Until then, I'll enjoy smack-talking our forum goers in the game's official thread without ever needing to back up my claims, and all competition will have to be limited to the included online leaderboards.
App Store Link: Battle Blasters, $2.99