475459_largerLet me come right out and say it - it's games like DOT Space Hero [$1.99] that are the reason I love iOS gaming. As you know, the beauty of the App Store is that practically anyone can release a game. Sure, while 99.9% of the titles released are nothing more than boiled cabbage covered in burnt hair, every once and a while, there is a true (cue incredibly overused descriptive noun) gem.

DOT Space Hero is a new take on an old genre. Combining traditional 2D side-scrolling shooting with a control scheme akin to that found in Jetpack Joyride, 1 Coin Studio has created a perfectly balanced, beautiful and charming little retro shmup that old hands and noobs can enjoy in equal measures.

The story sees our hero, DOT, who looks to be a baby stuffed inside a fish bowl, on a mission to find who stole his precious stardust - a delicacy in his part of the space woods. The story is cute and brilliantly narrated by the sporadic cut scenes in glorious, lovingly hand-crafted paintings. The visuals are a real treat but by no means are where the great design ends.

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The levels in DOT Space Hero seem to have been hand-sculpted from a rather large wad of pure talent-clay. The enemy waves, obstacles and power-up placements have been so well thought out and the gameplay so beautifully balanced, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled upon the latest offering from the likes of Nintendo, rather than a two-man team who met on the Unity 3D forums with the single ambition of making their own videogame.

DOT Space Hero is the perfect example of why quality is better than quantity. The game is not overly endowed in the length department but it makes up for its modest volume with oodles of challenge. DOT is set across three planets, each split into three areas. The first two areas see you flying left to right, ridding the world of the alien scum and collecting stardust, all whilst trying to avoid the various nasties such as bouncing asteroids, lightning fences and aliens who are rude enough to biff your bullets back in your face.

mzl.gthklbvaFrom time to time, enemies come along who release weapons upgrades when killed. Upgrades range from the standard increase in blaster power to limited run heavy weapons such as flame throwers and giant balls of gum. The standard blaster features unlimited ammo but if your trigger finger gets a bit too eager, you can overheat the weapon, so best keep an eye on that gauge.

DOT starts out each stage with three heart icons that represent his shields or "hit points" - standard retro stuff. Three hits and DOT will have to start again, though from time to time, life upgrades can be collected.

At the end of each planet is the obligatory boss battle. As with the rest of the game, the boss characters are stunningly drawn and provide just the right amount of a challenge to get the heart pumping but not so much as to get your iOS device hurled through the air in frustration.

Upon completing the planets, there are bonus stages which are used to collect stardust by moving up and down in your bubble-like spacecraft and after defeating the boss on the final planet, an extra area is unlocked. The gameplay is nicely varied, from the traditional shooting side of things through to the collect'em up and avoid'em up segments, it never gets old or repetitive.

Sound wise, the music and effects match the visual design brilliantly. The music is suitably atmospheric and the effects capture the classic shmup feel with familiar blips beeps and bangs.

DOT Space Hero is a charming, beautiful and most importantly, amazingly fun little iOS shmup. While there are many shooters available in the App Store, 1 Coin Studio has gone that extra mile to make sure that DOT is not only an excellent game, but an excellent game that has been designed around the iOS touch interface, rather than the other way around. The result is a truly wonderful piece of art that at this point I really cannot fault. Don't let the seemingly low number of stages put you off - you won't be breezing through DOT Space Hero and even once you've completed the game, you'll be coming back for more, if only to achieve triple stars on each stage by collecting all the available stardust (no mean feat) or improve on your Game Center leaderboard stats.

1 Coin Studio wanted to make a game that captured the essence of the 16-bit shooter and rewarded the player for skill, rather than offering up content in the form of IAP. In a world of ever increasing pay walls, to me this is a welcome business model and I hope it pays off for this team, as I really want to see what other digital miracles they have up their sleeves.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • themostunclean

    I hate to be "that guy" but I was just curious about the half star deduction. The review was 100% positive so what was the negative? Was it because it's a little on the short side?

    • LOLCAT

      TA seems to have their mysterious reasons for rankings that they give. I find its usually better not to ask.

      • EscortGamer

        **CONSPIRACY ALERT**

    • Boobi

      There is something that was missing, not sure reviewer is unclear on this. 5/5 here.

    • miumius

      Because that's how he feels. The game may be near flawless but he doesn't feel that it's a masterpiece/classic that a 5-star game is. He does -- however -- like it, a lot.

      • themostunclean

        Yes, but usually a reviewer backs up their score by giving the reason why they think it's not quite a masterpiece.

    • Loading3

      A review is not from 5 star then deducted from something negative. Its from 0 star then add for something positive. Im not good at explaining... Its okay if dont get it.

      • themostunclean

        I really don't think it would be good policy for a reviewer to start with the assumption that every game is a 0. No doubt some do, but not the good ones.

    • DemoEvolved

      He mentioned it is a bit short

    • Protoman

      The star score is based on complicated math according to TA staff. It's something like | (the review) + (reviewers emotional state at time of review) / (bs excuse of the week for having a star system by TA staff) x (amount of sand in said staffs' vaginas) | I think that's right.

  • ImJPaul

    I missed this one entirely. Looks pretty good. Downloaded.

  • wigzisonfire

    Missed this, but will now go and download thanks to the great review. The devs sound great so I'm happy to support.

  • paulkane

    Nice!

  • LOLCAT

    Very nice review. I don't usually enjoy SHMUPS, but this game looks so beautiful and well-designed I doubt I'll be able to resist it. Plus, I'm always eager to support indie devs.

  • http://www.youtube.com/MetalJesusRocks Metal Jesus Rocks

    I played this when it was first launched and found the difficulty to be really off-putting on some levels...and I burned out on the game quickly. Curious to see if others experience this...or if maybe they tweaked the game since then...

  • rco

    4.5/5 seems spot on to me. It's an excellent representative of an established genre, with solid gameplay and a few nice twists. I'm really enjoying it, but its not like they invented a totally new kind of game, and it doesn't feel like something that *can't* be missed. 4.5, not 5.

  • Loading3

    A review is not from 5 then deducted for each negative thing. Its from 0 then add for positive thing.

    • themostunclean

      Actually for many reviewers it's described like taking a test, you start with 100% then lose points as you get things wrong.

      It really comes down to the individual author. There's no set rule like you stated. It's a topic that's been discussed ad nauseum by professional reviewers and in comments sections all over the Internet- especially here!

      Anyway, having a great time with this game. Good review.

    • shadax

      That doesn't make sense. That would mean it has no cap like the score in a game. But this has a limit, 5 stars. So if it mentions no flaws and gets anything less than 5 stars, there was something wrong that wasn't mentioned.

  • Goggles789

    Great review! And an even better game. Truly fun and perfect for bite-sized game sessions. Thanks for the share!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004773092030 Dai Lion

    EveryGame is a tribute, old school, hard like old times, retro....come on, looks very simple, i played flash games better for free.

  • lux fox

    Nice...glad it got some recognition. Fun little game and beautiful.

  • armilla

    In this instance, I'm not so concerned about the rating: having read the review, I decided to purchase the game instantly.

  • Phil_Lapineau

    But is it as good as Jamestown?

    • shadax

      Hell no.

  • phonecats

    jetpack joyride done right.
    crazy hard man.

    • shadax

      Really?... I mean... REALLY?

      This game is good if made by one person, but after 10 minutes of playing I was extremely bored and annoyed with the music and uninstalled it.

      To each their own but this game has nothing on Jetpack Joyride.

DOT Space Hero Reviewed by Karl Burnett on . Rating: 4.5