Awesome Saucer [$1.99] slipped stealthily into the App Store a couple of weeks ago, without receiving much attention, but this well-presented 3d space-shooter deserves some acknowledgement. Nebuleux Games has used a unique graphical style, which makes it a memorable experience to play. And because it's universal, you can install it on your iPad and iPhone. Here's the low down...
You're a saucer pilot, responsible for flying the SCR-090 space fighter. It's an old-fashioned flying saucer, shaped like a frisbee, as often portrayed circa the 1950s. You fly around space, tracking, targeting and destroying the required quota of aliens to clear each area. Do it fast enough and you earn bonus points and unlock weapons. It's basically a dogfight situation, in space. This is an arcade-style game, so there's no story, missions, trading or traveling to specific locations. Instead, you simply score points by blasting aliens. When your shields hit zero, it's game over and you restart from scratch.
The graphics are, as the title suggests, quite awesome, in terms of their uniqueness. The enemies resemble glowing stars, which leave colorful trails, which are helpful for tracking them down. The default view is third-person perspective, looking from behind your saucer, however you can switch to first person perspective by tapping the screen. There's also crystalline asteroids to dodge or shoot. The background graphics, such as particle clouds and interplanetary skies will make you pause mid-battle to check out the awesome scenery. Movements are all smooth, fast and responsive. And if you hit the 'boost' button, things get even faster for a few seconds, with an acceleration effect. At times the game does get a little too fast, and that's on easy mode!
There's a heap of weaponry systems (12 types) and you can try them out in the free-roaming tutorial. Weapons include a rapid-fire proton-burst, gas attacks, 360 degree lazer targeting and graviton missiles. Some games offer two or three weapons slots, but in Awesome Saucer your craft can be loaded with all of the weapons simultaneously. The weapons auto-fire when an enemy is in range and targeted, so you can focus on navigating rather than mashing the fire button, although there's a manual fire button too. Now, need something to shoot? There's at least eight different enemies. Some are fast, others aggressive, some swarm, while kamikaze extra-terrestrials will chase you down and attempt to physically ram into your saucer.
The controls are a little different, with a left "flight stick" for steering and a right stick to rotate your saucer, so it rolls like a fighter jet. I didn't understand why the rotate stick was required, until the developer explained "It helps you turn faster, and rotating can help you track a target by spiraling in. But mostly it just looks cool". There's also buttons for braking and changing weapons.
If you took away the stunning graphics, Awesome Saucer would be less awesome and more ordinary. The gameplay is fairly shallow, a bit repetitive and doesn't provide a great feeling of progression, as there's currently no story, career mode, achievements or rankings and each game starts from scratch. Although, the game does track your overall kill statistics and the developer advises Game Center integration will be a priority update. Fortunately, the graphics transform Awesome Saucer from an average dog-fighting game, into a visual experience, which is why it caught our attention. E.T might need to "phone home" to warn the galaxy, because I'm about to board my saucer!
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