I personally never felt like I was good at shooters. However, being good at them and loving them are two entirely different things. While I marveled at friends that could blast through Ikaruga from start to finish without ever coming face to face with the game over screen, I plugged away at old classics like Konami's Life Force and Sexy Parodius, hoping each time I'd improve by some miniscule increment. Practice makes perfect, they always say.
Seeing Orange Pixel's latest title, Neoteria [$1.99], made me realize my days of shmup practice back in the day would be tested once again. A smart-looking little game with retro-inspired graphics, it foregoes deep story in favor of what we're all here to do when it comes to shooters: blow things up.
You'll start in easy mode, but don't be fooled -- there's challenge to be had, even early on. Controls consist of an up and down arrow on your far left (there's no forward and backward) and a single button for shooting on your right.
One thing I noticed during play is that my finger kept slipping north of the up button and I only realized it when my ship stopped moving (you drag your finger up and down to control these). Once I got a handle on how far up I could slide, though, this stopped being a problem.
It is worth noting about the controls that the arrows and shoot buttons become transparent as you play. Some people in the forums mentioned this and disliked it, others were not bothered by it. It never presented an issue for me, but its worth being aware of.
As you progress through Neoteria's levels, you'll see a map that plots out your path. At some point on each level you can choose one part of the route which takes you the high or low road. Regardless of which you take, you'll be challenged quickly, as there's lots of dodging and blasting to do. Enemies will leave behind little blue diamonds for you to collect, which will make your weapons more powerful if you pick them up. However, dying can cause weapons to downgrade, so keep it in mind as you go hurtling through space. You have infinite lives here, so that is a great plus.
You'll have an option to score up to three stars on each level you play, and also get a readout on your accuracy and kills along with a score. You'll get a single star for beating a level on easy, two for normal and three for hard. If you want to brag on your scores, OpenFeint and Game Center are built right in too, so you can do so with ease.
Fans of classic shooters like Gradius ought to get a lot of fun out of Neoteria. It comes up with plenty of challenge and gives the proper nod to the old games it's clearly inspired by, but it delivers the action in bite size pieces and is easy to pick up and play at anytime. Even the bosses, wile not as epic of some of the shooters of yore, have a great feel and have you tapping that blast button at high speed just like the good old days.
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