Super Cyclone [99¢] is a challenging 2D dual-stick shooter released by Miniclip.com and UK-based developers PlayerThree. It involves shooting aliens, dodging and blasting asteroids, collecting pick-ups and trying to stay alive long enough to protect the star-gates from waves of alien attack.
Whereas most dual-stick shooters occur within a rectangular playing area, the space battles in Super Cyclone are set within a circular zone. In the center of the playing area is a star-gate. The invading aliens want to breach the star-gate, to gain access to our planetary system. You're on patrol to ensure that doesn't happen, by shooting them all down. If any enemy-spawning alien nests enter the star-gate, it's game-over.
The main controls are a standard dual-stick shooter configuration, with the left stick used for navigation and the right stick for 360 degree firing. There's a button for launching missiles and another for weapon selection. A couple of users in our discussion forum found the navigation controls "twitchy", but personally I had no problems making the ship move and fire where I wanted.
When you destroy an alien craft, a yellow "heart" appears for collection (although it doesn't actually resemble a heart). These increase your score multiplier and are converted to coins once the level is completed, so grab them quickly before they disappear. If you don't collect the hearts, you'll have absolutely no chance of reaching the difficult scores required to achieve a three-star level score.
You can double tap (and hold) the right stick to make your ship spin around rapidly, like a ...super cyclone. In this mode your ship can destroy enemies and attract any floating pick-ups or yellow "hearts" in the vicinity. The cyclone feature also causes overheating, as shown on a "cyclone meter", so if you spin too long your ship explodes, depleting one of your three lives.
Your craft is protected by a shield system, which weakens with each attack or collision. To restore the shields power you need to find a quiet area and stop shooting briefly. This forces a quick change of pace, which is a nice interlude from the often frantic and crowded battles.
Your ship is also equipped with a radar system, which displays small icons around your craft, which are color coded to represent different enemy types, pick-ups, or appearing enemy nests. The direction to your star-gate is also shown, to keep you orientated. Asteroids don't show up on the radar, so you need to stay alert to dodge or shoot incoming hunks of space-rock. If you shoot asteroids, they break into smaller pieces, as in the classic Asteroids game.
The enemies evolve as you progress, learning new behaviors and acquiring new technology (such as stealth technology, so they don't appear on the radar), making them harder to beat in later levels. Some enemies become more aggressive as you progress, while others turn cautious, but more deadly. One example of enemy evolution is that the alien nests gain the ability to fire weapons in 360-degrees, in addition to spawning multiple aliens to chase you around. There's reportedly 24 different enemy evolutions of behavior in total (not to be confused with 24 different enemy ships, which there's not).
The star-gate starts to spin when it's about to release a special pick-up item. This might be a new type of weapon and ammunition, such as a barrage of heat seeking missiles or rapid fire. You need to grab any pick-up's quickly before they float off into space.
You can purchase weapons and ammo-packs in an in-game store, using money earned by collecting yellow hearts or via in-app purchases (which are not necessary). Your default weapon is a plasma cannon, but you can also buy or pick-up heat seeking missiles which cause splash damage, pulsar shots with fast and wide spread, or ION bolts with extra range. The store includes some "coming soon" slots, which the developers plan to fill with additional weapons, new ships, and possibly a wing-man.
There's four sectors to play, each with seven levels, making 28 levels in total. Each time you clear a level by surviving the waves of attack, the next level is unlocked. By the time you reach sector B, things are frantic and several enemies will be swarming around you. Fortunately, this game is level-based, so you're not starting from the very beginning each time.
Although Facebook integration is provided, they haven't included Game Center leaderboards, which is unusual for a points-based shoot'em-up which already has Game Center achievements. Also, they seem to have forgotten a Game Center achievement for completing sector D. However, the developer advises leaderboards will be added in a coming update and in the meantime the best scores are being recorded.
The current version has a few teething problems. It erratically freezes when the pause menu is accessed and achievements are sometimes awarded more than once, but the developer is releasing fixes for both of these issues. Also, the tutorial pages flick by automatically and there's no option to replay it, unless you erase the game data and re-start from scratch. The pick-up items have labels which are too small and disappear quickly, leaving you wondering what you picked up. And lastly, a vague "Achievement achieved" message appears when you satisfy a Game Center achievement, but it doesn't say which achievement. These notifications overlap the left stick and appear inconveniently under your fingers, so the message is partially obscured.
Super Cyclone has some fun ideas, such as the star-gates and alien nests, which ensure the gameplay is more interesting than simply shooting enemies endlessly. This game is available on the Miniclip website so you can try it in your computer browser for free; although rest assured it handles much better on our touch screens.
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