Last month we posted some info on an upcoming bullet hell shooter from Firi Games called Phoenix. After going hands on with Phoenix, we ended up really liking the randomly generated nature of the game and were impressed with how well the scaling difficulty worked in practice. While the core gameplay was a lot of fun, Phoenix lacked graphical variety and overall had a rough around the edges feel. This last weekend Phoenix [99¢] was released into the App Store, and the final build of the game has a much more refined feel gameplay-wise but still has some minor issues that hold it back.

Each playthrough of Phoenix is one endless high score run with randomly generated small, medium, and large enemies. Opposing ships are comprised of many different pieces that can be put together in all sorts of ways, meaning you'll be facing a lot of enemies that look similar but can have slight differences from one another. The bad guys have a nice variety of different bullet types, and it's both fun and challenging to try and dodge the ridiculous amount that's being fired at you at any given time. Even with all the action that is taking place on screen at one time, Phoenix still runs smoothly across all of the iOS devices.

Phoenix uses a scaling difficulty level, and the developers have implemented this in a really smart way to ensure that the game is approachable by players of any skill level. Destroying enemies during play will slowly add stars to a gauge in the upper left corner, up to five. The more stars you have the more difficult the enemies are, and the more points you earn. Each time you are hit by an enemy bullet you'll lose a star and the game's difficulty will drop down a notch. Before starting each game you can choose how many stars to begin with and during the course of that play the star level will not drop below what you choose even if you're hit by enemy fire.

My biggest problem with Phoenix is one that remains from the preview build that we tried last month, and that is that the game's graphics and environment get overly repetitive. There's only one scrolling background in the game and nearly all the enemies use a similar color scheme and design so that they don't really differentiate themselves from each other. The fact that the gameplay is so enjoyable makes this problem somewhat forgivable though, and I would bet that Firi Games will work on adding some visual variety to the game in future updates.

Note that this video is of the preview version of Phoenix, and the released version contains more sound effects and background music.

Phoenix is one of those games that really grows on you the more you play it. I love how it's different each time you play and it captures that same type of magic of classic arcade-style high score games. There is regional and global online high score tracking using Firi's own leaderboards in addition to Game Center leaderboard integration. Players in our forums are really digging Phoenix as well, and Firi Games is there actively collecting feedback for future update consideration. At the price of 99¢ if you like scrolling shmups, randomly generated games, high score challenges, or any combination of the three then you should definitely give Phoenix a look.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Rocco Menzel

    Best and most addicting shmup I've ever played.
    It's beautiful, the sound is great, controls are tight, the weapons are awesome.
    But the true seller is the random/endless mechanic with a perfect pacing.
    I only would love to see the blue cockpit (hit box) brightened up a bit.

    But this game is already pretty perfect. Can't stop playing.

    • Xurkey

      Wow, if you truly think this is the best stg of all time I think you should give up gaming all together, and I mean that.

      • Rocco Menzel

        Read again. Best shmup, I'VE ever played.
        Besides that, yes, I do some gaming in my free time, got a life during the other hours, also haven't tried every shooter on every console. To be honest, I grew up with some computers but didn't touch a console in recent years (part age/time/interest, part the iPhone is filling this need perfectly). And on this device, I know every single shmup, and this is simply the one I'm enjoying the most. And now, I'm even wondering why I bother replying.

      • postmanmanman

        Geh, if you think this is the best shmup you've ever played and even the best shmup on the platform... you need to play a few more shmups. I certainly haven't played every shmup in existence but it's still obvious this is hardly a work of art. It's OK, I suppose, but lifeless and horrendously uninteresting.

        Cave's shmups on the App Store are infinitely superior. They also have much larger teams, so that's understandable, but this shmup is slow and boring, even in comparison to the (really quite good) Icarus-X which was developed by one person.

      • Rocco Menzel

        Sorry, but I'm having way more fun with this. The pacing is perfect to me. I guess you didn't reach far enough to know why I'm so happy with it.
        The Cave shooters are great (definitely the two best level-based shmups), but this is kind of the essence of them, a fantastic random highscore shmup, no short levels, no huge bg-graphics which I don't care about anyway because of the enemies and bullets on screen. And it's just more addicting to me. Why do I have to defend my taste? I like this one more than the 2 Cave shooters and I also played the good Icarus-X for a while, nice but not as addicting and beautiful.

        You may have your favorites, I got mine. And Phoenix just hits the right spots.

      • 'Sha Nu

        Man, too many haters. Or everyone is just way too picky with games these days..... Phoenix may not be the very best anything, but I still would say it's good and recommend it to anyone. Although, when I tried getting my boyfriend to play, he was dead in under 20 seconds. *facepalm*...... Nevertheless, this game is the most fun I've had playing a game on my iPhone on the train to work in the morning - not so intense that I can't look away for 5 seconds to figure out where the hell I am, and not so boring and slow that I fall asleep. Although, I haven't bothered trying any other similar games and probably won't bother since I've already moved on.. Still. It's good. There. Lol. I just don't know why people bother telling someone that their tastes are wrong to begin with.

        Oh wait, did getting the free Phoenix HD version, and therefore not having paid money for it, make me happier with it? Free games that are decent are always awesome. 🙂

  • Klaus

    As an old school gamer, I don't like that they call it "Phoenix"!

  • Pirpiri

    What are the best alternatives to Phonenix?

    • Rocco Menzel

      The two Cave shooters, rRootage Online and Warblade rock.

  • Guest69

    Turned off by fake reviews. Devs should realise it is not endearing...

    • Selachii

      excuse me?

  • ImMattR

    You guys are obviously being too bias. This is game is pure fun.

Phoenix Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4