Vertical shooters are one of the oldest genres in gaming, and developers have been trying to figure out a way to create games that stand out amongst the crowded market for just as long. Eveningstar [App Store], developed by Divine Robot, does a good job of mixing up its tried-and-true gameplay with a unique element: a secondary weapon that's controlled in a unique and interesting way.
There is a backstory for Eveningstar that's accessible in text form through the main menu, but it's not really important. The important thing is that you are a dude in spaceship with a deadly magnetic ball called "the Eveningstar" orbiting you. The Eveningstar does major damage to anything it touches, and while it can't be controlled directly, it can be manipulated by moving your ship around to create a slingshot effect. Your ship is controlled by touching anywhere on the screen and dragging, and the Eveningstar follows behind. People in our forums found it quite difficult to control the Eveningstar at first, but reported becoming much better at it after spending a little time with the game.
Aesthetically, Eveningstar impresses. Each of the game's nine levels are set in different elementally-themed locations that draw from unique color palettes. These levels and the enemies that populate them are extremely well drawn, with animation that looks great and feels appropriate for the game's art direction. The occasional 3D effects on some objects seems a little strange, but despite the inconsistency in which items are 3D and which items are not, everything looks good. Complimenting Eveningstar's pleasant graphics is the orchestral soundtrack, which is of professional quality. The epic score makes headphones highly recommendable, as they can add to the overall experience in a way that really shouldn't be missed.
Unlike many other vertically-scrolling shooters, Eveningstar's camera is extremely slow to scroll, making the game intentionally slow-paced. This might be for the best, as there's a pretty cool physics system in the game attributed to some objects that can be manipulated by a well-placed whack with the Eveningstar. To keep levels at a reasonable length, most of the game's nine levels are extremely short (from a physical length perspective, not the time that it takes to beat them). It won't take long to beat the game, but completing all nine levels will restart players at the first level with their current score, encouraging endurance runs for those who wish to go for high scores.
Unfortunately, there is no online leaderboard support to speak of in Eveningstar, so players will be hard-pressed to find incentive to play through the game more than a couple times. The inclusion of easy, medium, and hard difficulty settings (the latter of which is a real challenge) was a wise move on the part of the developer that will add replay value to the game, but online leaderboards seem like an absolute must if Eveningstar is to totally connect with its audience. Even with the omission of leaderboards, Eveningstar is an attractive game that's well worth checking out.
App Store Link: Eveningstar, $1.99