Mixing neon visuals and techno music with top-down shooting action and inertia-based movement, circuit_strike.one pushes the limits of Apple hardware, and possibly the patience of the casual gamer.
The player is pilot of a virtual ship that hacks network nodes, in a stylized metaphor for a computer network. A mission is completed by destroying a shield generator protecting the data core, then by destroying the data core itself. Against the player are enemies rendered as wireframe polyhedrons, attacking by ramming and/or shooting the player’s ship.
An animation sequence follows loading, complete with an ancient modem sounding over a phone line, which is a nice touch. There’s a lot of that in circuit_strike.one. Die, and you are mocked in l33t speak. Attacking enemies pulse to the bass of the background music. The graphics are lavish: transparent overlays, trailing, lens flares, a visual experience designed as much to impress as to kill with distraction, as if the game wasn’t good at that already.
Everything about circuit_strike.one is deceptively easy to understand. The zoomed playing field is a wraparound with the shielded data core located in the center. You rotate the ship using the thumb-control on the left. Fire button is on the right. Tapping accelerates the ship, while swiping downward brakes. Braking is crucial because movement is inertia-based, though a ship in motion will not remain in motion forever. It feels not so much like flying through space, as sliding across ice, but the learning curve is steep. Here are a few tips.
- Don’t move. Seriously, that’s the most important advice for beginners. New players should practice turning the ship and firing at enemies before ever using thrusters.
- Tap, then swipe. That’s the way to learn moving and stopping the ship.
- Chasing powerups is a good way to learn basic movement.
- Intermediate movement begins with thrusting forward, spinning the ship and shooting back along the flight path.
- Learning to circle enemies by rotating the ship and thrusting, while strafing, too, is an advanced technique (at least for me).
The main form of enemy attack is ramming the player’s ship. Enemies differ in that some are fast, some slow, some take multiple shots to kill, some split into more enemies or swarm, and at least one shoots back. One other common characteristic is that destroyed enemies leave behind Ghost Data, and Ghost Data means Bullet Time.
By shaking the device, the player can induce a kind of slow-motion mode of play. While the player’s ship speed remains constant, enemies are perceptibly slow. In addition, the player’s ship becomes temporarily invulnerable, and that’s an invaluable feature for completing the level.
Shield generators are defended by stationary turrets which track the player’s ship and shoot projectiles. While taking out the turret is not required to destroy the shield generator, it’s a good idea. However, it’s also a good idea to do so without using Bullet Time.
Once all the shield generators are destroyed, the data core, which is located in the center of the playing field, is vulnerable. It will take several seconds of constant fire before the data core is destroyed and the level completed. This is the best use of Bullet Time, as it also slows the self-destruct timer. Advancing to the next level means more enemies, more shield generators, and less time to destroy the Data Core. That’s circuit_strike.one, and that’s why I hate it.
Summing Up: Silver Rating
I hate circuit_strike.one, and that’s the highest compliment that I can pay any game. It’s the kind of hate that brings me back again and again to try to beat it — not play it. That is the difference between “hardcore” and “casual” gaming for me, and that’s why circuit_strike.one may not be for everyone. There’s also the occasional freezing glitch during play, most likely from my iPhone 3G receiving a beat down rendering the visuals. I contacted the developer, and an update will be forthcoming. It addresses memory overhead and allows the player to reduce visuals and other CPU-intensive settings.
At 99 cents, it’s not about the money, but your time. Whether or not you want to make the kind of investment required to play circuit_strike.one comes down to how much of a challenge you are looking for. I strongly recommend finding out.