Earlier this month mobile developer AdAdo released a retro space shooter that's pretty sparse on eye-candy, but should have definite appeal to oldschool gamers who have fond, long-ago memories of feeding quarters into a certain video game known as Star Castle. Star Keep for the iPhone [App Store] is pretty much a straight-up clone of Cinematronics' 1980, vector-based classic.

Like Star Castle, Star Keep challenges you to use your laser-equipped spaceship to obliterate a powerful enemy turret that lies at the center of a series of rotating, regenerating shield rings. In order to destroy the turret, you must eliminate outer shield segments, exposing segments within, and so on, until you've laid the turret bare and can get off a clean shot. But be warned, the turret is always tracking you and firing homing bolts that chase your ship. As the levels progress, other enemy craft emerge from the shields, bent on turning you to space dust.

The game is controlled via on-screen buttons: Left / Right, Fire, Thrust. The controls work well enough, but even the arcade cabinet, which utilized botton Left / Right controls, would've benefitted from a rotary knob. The trick is to keep moving and to think ahead, so as not to let your momentum get away from you.

For Star Castle fans, this is probably a no-brainer grab. For those unfamiliar, be aware that Star Keep delivers very basic gameplay by modern standards. If you can enjoy basic (and challenging) arcade action without a lot of flare, then maybe you, too, will find fancy with this simple (but sometimes mind-bending) formula.

App Store Link: Star Keep, $0.99

TouchArcade Rating

  • Steve

    Star Castle was a GREAT arcade game, 'Back in the Day'.

    But man it could get hard. Don't stay in one place too long or you will be dead!! Buying right now!

    Steve

    • http://ravensword.com AmazingRuss

      The arcade game was a quarter vacuum, that's for sure, unless you were really good. I found it too uneconomical to play much. Now I can buy it for 4 devalued quarters, and carry it around in my pocket.

      Welcome to your amazing future!

  • Mark

    I'll be getting this one—I like arcade games like Star Castle and Orbital Defence. :)

  • http://move Rad

    Looks Great !

    This is the second Star Castle game in the store @ .99 the is a must get.

  • http://Www.moistproduction.com Moist

    Omg, that brings back some memories :P
    they didnt have color screens back then and they would put colored gels on the screen to give each ring a different color, serious old school.

  • dave

    now if only someone would do a Ripoff rendition

    • http://www.twitchfactor.com Twitchfactor

      Working on it.

  • multipass

    Oooo, I loved playing Ripoff. Star Castle was great too. I'll be picking this one up.

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    Wow. I cannot believe I made the front page of Touch Arcade with my game. Thanks sincerely!

    I too have fond, but frustrating, memories of Star Castle. Its vector graphics, its incredibly hard game play, and the funny overlays for adding color all stick out in my mind when I think of that game. It is also one of the games that sticks out in my mind in terms of classic arcade gaming.

    I found the vector graphics games strangely appealing. Funny thing is, I never got around to owning a Vectrex home game system that featured vector graphics.

    A couple more vector graphics games I would like to take inspiration from, so-to-speak, would be Atari's Tempest and Atari's Major Havoc (with cool bass sounds included). I would like to pursue either or both of those if the game engine I currently use for some of my products improves in performance by the time it comes out of beta. Also, if time permits, I may explore other engines or methods like I did with my other app "Whookie":

    http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=49727

    (Sorry for that little bit of self-promotion. I'm finding this whole mobile app experience very fun and fascinating but time consuming.)

    Thanks again to Touch Arcade and its fine user base.

    -AdAdo

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    Here is the link to the Touch Arcade forums post for StarKeep:

    http://forums.toucharcade.com/showthread.php?t=47891

    ...in case anyone wanted to post comments, concerns, suggestions, etc. there. The forum posts you can subscribe to and receive e-mail updates letting you know when replies have been posted.

  • http://www.quantum-sheep.com quantumsheep

    Got this already - great game :)

  • GaranceD

    Star Castle wasn't all that hard to play. On the last game that I played (which was many years ago), I played for a few hours before I gave the game over to some younger kid who was watching me. I don't know how many spare lives I had left, but he played for at least 15 more minutes before he ran out of spare lives, and he wasn't all that good at the game.

    I had a longer response here, but the web site kept complaining that I was typing in the wrong anti-spam word. I had to switch browsers to type in this response!

    I have no idea if the same playing pattern would work as well for Star Keep as it did for Star Castle...

  • http://www.myspace.com/moonsofjupitermusic RM imagery

    I have the other Star Castle game - Star Fortress and it's not terrible but I haven't gone back to it.

    AdAdo, have you considered a Lunar Lander game? That was my fave vector game when I was a kid. There is a clone or two out there, but they lack quality.

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    @GaranceD: I think the strategy for the old Star Castle game was fly left and shoot while wrapping the screen to the right...heading toward the shields and bouncing off them. Keep shooting until you are attacked. Then fly to the right while shooting and wrapping. Repeat. I think that is how it went. I was young when the game was first out so I didn't really catch on to that method of play until it was past its prime.

    In StarKeep, the shields kill you! :-)

    The beta game engine I used for this particular game is slowly eeking out more and more performance. Until they are prime time, I had to scrap a few subtleties of original game play and work in some alternate methods (mainly regarding ring re-spawn and keep defense).

    I think it plays well despite the engine needing a few more horsepower under the hood (and OpenFeint). I'm thinking of shaving the rings down from 10 to 8 segments each and dropping the background. That may eek a couple more frames-per-second from the engine.

    I also think StarKeep is a bit difficult in its own right. I have a lot of the variables in the game parameterized out so I could try different scenarios while testing. I think I got a pretty good mix going.

    @RMimagery: Ahh, the old Lunar Lander game. I did like it and I always thought that Major Havoc encompassed a little touch of it in its game play. Having seen there were already a few out there and already having a handful of other games in-the-queue or currently underway, it may be a time before I could give it some treatment. Part-time, one man shop at the moment. Hope I can go full-time at some point. Really wish I had more time for actual XCode/SDK development 'style' (although one of the next two will likely go that route due to my need for leaderboards...which the StarKeep engine I used doesn't support...yet).

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      It gets a little bit away from the arcade's L/R button arrangement, but an analog sort of "slider" control for L/R (with faster rotation rate the further out from center) would be a pretty great option.

      • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

        I may play around with a slider for left/right. I originally had a triumvirate of controls on the left for left/right and thrust but it took up too much room on the display when in a configuration that worked somewhat well.

        My main hope is for the game engine producer to eek out some more performance in their engine.

  • Fuzzy1

    Just picked this up. Glad to see it. A suggestion, some sort of customization for the controls. My fingers are too big to use the buttons effectively, would like to be able to move them around or at least swap them so that the thrust and fire buttons aren't so close together.

    Omega Race was my all-time fave back in the day though, a lesser-played version of Asteroids but very fun. ( even got a job at an arcade just to play for free for a few hours.

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    I just uploaded version 1.0.2 of StarKeep to the iTune's App Store. If it gets approved, you will see:

    * support for both orientations of landscape display mode

    * extra player ship for each level complete

    * bigger buttons (and even bigger touch area for buttons...especially innermost buttons)

    * slight improvement on the frames-per-second (2 to 4)

    * even though it is now (barely) playable on a 3G and older Touch, I marked it for "armv7" devices only so hopefully it will restrict purchase in iTunes to the newer models in iTunes instead of relying on a "description" based disclaimer

    Next inline would be trying out a slider control for left/right rotation but I have a few other things I need to finish.

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    BTW: Regarding the "armv7" designator mentioned above, that feature was just recently added to the game engine StarKeep uses even though it has been available elsewhere for some time. Thankfully, they added that to the game engine.

  • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

    The update I mentioned in the post above was finally just approved. Probably delayed due to all the iPad submissions and the rework of the iTune's App Store for the iPad apps.

  • blades

    I saw that this was updated so I went out and bought it.

    Not too bad, but the frame-rate REALLY needs a much needed boost. I have an Itouch 3rd Gen and it still kind of jerky, almost distracting to a point. Slide controls would be a big plus. Please don't give up as many developers have done and abandon their apps. You are on to something and this could be really fun if the framerate and controls were improved upon.

    But still fun, nonetheless. Brings back memories.

    ;

    • http://www.adado.com AdAdo

      @blades: Thanks for the kind words and support. Yeah, it runs pretty slow on my first gen Touch (and thus my recommendation for newer devices) but runs well on my 3GS. I can imagine it will be just fine on the iPad and newer iPhone that gets announced later this year (if the rumor is true).

      It's using a third-party beta game engine where one of their continual (and needed) focuses is to improve performance. I've thought over-and-over, reworking it to about the best that I can given the third-party engine's current limitations. I may need to just go the old school route and do a bit more on the programming side from scratch or persue some other APIs that are a bit lower level. The current game engine just made it sooo easy to put it together (despite some of its beta issues). It was a good effort but I to think it could be done differently to make it really zip.

      I have a few other games (that are less "actiony") in the works but as I get better and (hopefully) get more time, I would indeed like to re-work it or hope that the engine, as it comes out of beta, is more worthy of a classic arcade game such is the Castle.

      I really want to implement Atari's Tempest.

  • Spuddle

    yes please!!! Tempest was/is a classic,still unique
    to this day..Mmmmm Tempest HD ipad,(dribble,dribble)