I love arcade games, I’ve stated this hundreds of times by now on PixelBedlam. There are so many genres that are synonymous with the coin-slot gaming style. Fighters, side-scrolling brawlers and Shmups. For the uninitiated Shmups, or shoot em’ ups, are generally scrolling shooting games that have over the years moved more into the territory of Bullet Hell games like DoDonPachi. Many gamers first experience with the games of this style came from Galaxian, 1945 and maybe something like Space Invaders ‘could’ be considered an early iteration.
There have been a couple of attempts to bring these kind of niche appeal games to iOS devices over the years, DoDonPachi itself appeared last year for a face smashingly expensive price. But what if you are curious about the genre and looking to get your foot in the door? Well in swims Abyss Attack for your initiation.
If there is a story for Abyss Attack then I skipped it, as far as I can tell it goes like this: you are in a submarine, you shoot stuff or you die, that’s it. This alone makes this game perfect for those pick up and play sessions whilst your waiting in a pub for a friend or spending your afternoon with food poisoning on the throne.
Rather than be a pure Shmup, Abyss Attack also crosses into endless runner territory. Rather than there being X number of levels in the game it instead goes for picking a random background and enemy placement/type and breaks up the monotony of the experience by throwing in some challenging and surprisingly satisfying boss encounters. The enemies are all neon plankton and plant life. The bosses tend to be tentacled enemies spraying intermittent loads of shots at your poor sub. An issue with all the enemies following a similar design means it’s hard to memorise their attack patterns and, in a much worse for difficulty way, you can’t tell how much damage they require to be destroyed.
The game features the usual insane amount of in-app-purchases that infect the iOS platform today, but thankfully the game doesn’t hammer it down your throat, at no point in the hours I put into the game did I feel like I was required to purchase anything. Every enemy you kill in the game drops diamonds because, well I don’t know why plankton have eaten diamonds but they have so we’ll just move on. These diamonds can be spent in the game shop allowing you to unlock various boosts, weapon extras like bombs and rotating blades and finally you can use your hard-earned blood diamonds to buy new submarines to maintain your sub-aquatic genocide of neon creatures.
The graphics in the game are on the simple side for a modern Shmup, in recent years Shmups have become all about extremely detailed pixel art, Abyss Attack goes slightly left of this and bravely takes its own style, it’s gone for current indie flavour of the month minimalist neon [see: Gun Monkeys, Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine.]. This style works well within the world the game creates but it is a shame that the first area for me tended to be an empty blue background as opposed to the really nice areas you could experience like the red coral area.
To control your little sub you have to use touchscreen controls. The sub is permanently shooting as you touch your ship and guide it with your finger. In theory this should produce a more responsive experience but in reality it leads to you slipping your finger around then looking back and realising its not touching the sub anymore due to speed restrictions. In all honesty I’d be much happier with a left and right arrow or a virtual stick to control it.
The game is simple enough for pick up and play and has the potential to be a nice portable go to shmup for retro fans, but for a game set deep below the ocean there isn’t much depth here. The game has challenges, new subs and power-ups, but there just isn’t enough here to grab, and keep, the average gamer playing past a few days. With some nice content updates then I would strongly recommend this game, but with what is given at launch and the slightly ropey controls I’d mainly recommend this for anyone who already enjoys Shmups or those desperate to get into Bullet Hell.