Those of you who weren't born with a smartphone in your hands might recall the simpler days of video games. How simple? I'm talking stick figures, backgrounds painted in one, maybe two shades of color, and jarringly loud bleeps that passed as sound effects. Some of these games were awful. Others stand as classic examples of gameplay over graphics, a no-frills approach often lost in the desperate struggle to produce photorealistic graphics, and realistic physics, and realistic bleeps.

Plasma-Sky [$1.99] isn't quite so stark, but it does hearken back to the simpler days of shmups. There's no IAP, no dizzying array of ships with different stats and weapons, and the screen won't fill up with bullets and background flashes and flickers that send you into seizures. At least not right away. Like Geometry Wars, Plasma-Sky applies a coating of retro paint. You control a shiny ship made up of brightly colored lines and fire away at fleets of equally effervescent enemy ships, collecting bigger and better power-ups that light up the black-as-ink sky like colored pegs battling it out on a Lite-Brite.

Plasma-Sky's utilitarian aesthetic carries over to its control scheme, and in a good way. You can tilt your device to steer your ship, or better yet, slide your thumb around; where your digit goes, your ship will follow. Firing is done for you, giving you the leisure to focus on dodging enemy fire and weaving in and out of their synchronized (space) swimming formations. The tilt controls aren't responsive, and your thumb occasionally impedes your view, which can mean the difference between an enemy tagging or missing your vehicle. Otherwise the touch controls are snappy and will carry their weight on your flight to victory, depending on how you choose to play.

The game offers three modes, each of which should pose a hefty challenge to even the most accomplished shoot 'em up-er. Conquest starts you at level one and challenges you to survive up to 80 waves of ships big and small. Every second you survive increases your score multiplier; die, and those impressive numbers you racked up reset to zero. Hardcore mode strips away your life bar and gives you only a single hit point to go on, and Survival throws massive waves of enemies at you in wild displays that should please fans of tough-as-nails shmups like Dodonpachi Resurrection.

As a shmup fan, I enjoyed Survival and Hardcore modes the most, but Conquest presents a rounded mode suited for players of all skill levels. The mode increases the challenge at a slow burn, giving new players time to find their space legs. At the same time, old hands will appreciate the challenge of keeping scores and multipliers intact during the more grueling stages that come up later on. Giving players unlimited continues might seem a strike against challenge, but it actually adds a layer of difficulty: do you continue, knowing that pressing on means losing your score and power-ups? Or do you go all the way back to level 1 and give 'er another go?

Three modes, touch controls that hop to at the slightest touch, and retro graphics. Doesn't sound like much, does it? Don't be fooled by appearances, Plasma-Sky is a solid addition to the ever-expanding galaxy of shmups available on the App Store.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Smartbomb

    Best shmup I've played on a tablet to date. Very good game.

  • Kevin Agot

    This one's a keeper, fo sho.

  • http://twitter.com/SquaredApe Robert Cummings

    I really like the aesthetic.

  • roddgreen

    Looks great, nice review!

  • Andy C83

    This game is stunning. Sure to be on my shortlist come GOTY.

  • MrSHakerEsq

    Can't believe it only got 4 stars. Reasonable price too.

  • nightc1

    Love this game. Its a solid 5/5 from me as the gameplay is just that remarkable. There are the three modes and the dev is talking about adding another mode in as well. This has really kept me from playing other shmups on iOS because it is just that awesome. Best shmup I've played since Ikaruga.

    • Decoy_Octopus

      Ikaruga was the hardest shrump I ever played

      • nightc1

        I don't think it was the hardest one I've played. I was able to finish it just fine though I didn't push for high scores. I loved getting dot eater ranks on the levels by just avoiding shooting anything. That was pretty refreshing. In some ways the hardcore mode of Plasma Sky is a bit harder than Ikaruga. Thankfully the normal Conquest mode is playable by pretty much anyone that likes the genre.

  • TheEvilRobot

    This game is amazing. Everything about it is perfect.

  • paulkane

    Definitely 5/5 and I am not a hardcore shmup fan at all. I loved space invaders on Atari and later, Galaga in the arcade, if some of you can relate to that. This is a must and am super excited that TA reviewed it...a TA plays is definitely in order. This game is too fun, not to do a TA plays. Yeah!!

  • RadishTM

    This gem alluded me, one of the best shmups I've played in a while.

  • http://twitter.com/nuno2k nuno lourenco

    drop to 0.99

    • Boobi

      Die

      • http://twitter.com/nuno2k nuno lourenco

        ok.i will buy

  • http://twitter.com/nuno2k nuno lourenco

    its like Warblade HD or better?

    • SumoSplash

      It shares many similarities. I would say it is at least equal to Warblade. You should definitely check it out. If you don't like it, I'll pay for your copy myself.

      • http://twitter.com/nuno2k nuno lourenco

        tks,in short time i will buy and i will like

  • wojovox

    The developer spent over 2 years building this game and I can see the effort.

  • witedahlia

    Yay thanks for reviewing this game! I've been playing it since the day it came out and I'm glad to see it get the attention it deserves! 5 stars from me.

  • SumoSplash

    Oh my dear lord! TA reviewed Plasma Sky! There is a little justice is this universe. Still waiting on Danmaku 2 as well, fellas *wink*

  • Stichz

    Does it support iCade, if not, any idea if dev have mentioned something about it?

    • SumoSplash

      iCade support is coming.

    • Connector

      Yes, see my icade comments above. I have been working with the developer on icade and it works great!!!!!!!

  • Connector

    I am beta testing the new icade update which will come out in a couple of days. It will have 5 different icade sensitivities making it one of the first ios games with different joystick settings for speed.

    It is an awesome experience. This game is shockingly good with joystick support.

    Great developer, great game, and great icade core joystick controls!!!

    Buy it!!!!

    • Stichz

      Wow, thanks for the reply and the good news. Sounds awesome, and I love devs who make their ganes compatible with iCade, definitely makes me want to support them.

      • Connector

        You will LOVE the 5 icade sensitivity settings, each makes the game totally different in gameplay. Here is a topsecret photo of the new update with icade controls. You will be amazed. Thank god the developer has been kind to buy an icade joystick and listen to my urging for many joystick speeds. I hope this becomes a norm in joystick settings on ios in the future. And anyone reading this, go buy an icade core before the update comes out!

      • Stichz

        Awesome, I'm very interested in trying those new sensitivity settings that you mentioned, sounds really nice. I agree, if more devs would be as willing then I could think of multiple games that would benefit hugely from a well working iCade control system. Thanks for sharing the photo btw, looks great! :)

  • blakedaking

    Great game, especially for the retro gamer. Game is extremely polished and great for quick on-the-go gaming.

  • cuw

    Wow, I bought this expecting geometry wars style gameplay as a schmup instead of arena style gameplay and am more than impressed. This is excellent and it deserves more praise than it will probably ever get. The graphics are bright colorful and clean, the gameplay is a bit difficult but that's good I feel accomplished when I get a little further. I can't think of anything I really would want for this to be a better game besides having hard button controls but that is a flaw all iPhone games have and this deals with it perfectly fine.

    • philadendron

      I have to say I just bought it and I'm not as impressed as I thought I'd be. Obviously there was a lot of time spent creating it and it looks beautiful, but I am using the touch controls and moving my spaceship across the screen quickly results in my ship moving more slowly than my finger. I seem to remember PhoenixHD controlling a lot more responsively than this.

      Also, the Achievements are super disappointing. Two achievements?!?! I am a sucker for a game with lots of challenging, yet rewarding achievements. This game has only two and they will both take a lot of time to even come close to getting.

      3/5 stars for me

  • ExK

    There is another game called 'Orion Nebula' in the app store. It's a shmup like Plasma Sky with thrilling and colorful space battle. 14 types of enemy deliver unique attacks and challenges. It's free to play with IAP if you want some added advantage.

Plasma Sky - a rad retro arcade space shooter Reviewed by David Craddock on . Rating: 4