Games for the weekend: AirAttack


Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy during this weekend.

AirAttackAirAttack ($0.99 iPhone, $0.99 iPad, $0.99 Mac) brings old-school arcade-style gaming into the modern handheld age with a top-down air combat shooter you can touch.  What really sets this game apart from others in this genre is it stunning 2D-graphics and assortment of responsive gameplay controls.

On the iOS(s AAPL) version of the game, there are four basic ways to control your aircraft on the screen. The two touch-based controls on the screen are more natural on the iPad. The first of these touch controls allows you to move the aircraft by placing your finger directly on top of the plane. If you feel like this obstructs your view of the action, there is also a relative touch control that will allow you to maneuver the plane from a distance. As you drag your finger across the screen on one side of the battlefield, the aircraft will shadow you movements on the other. There is also and a virtual d-pad as well and a gyro-based tilt control that seems to work better when playing on an iPhone and projecting the action onto an Apple TV via AirPlay.


For OS X players, you can use either the keyboard or the mouse to control the aircraft. With the latest update from Art In Games on the Mac App Store, you can even plug in your favorite USB gamepad controller and use it throughout the game. If you happen to have turned your iPad into a mini retro arcade cabinet game, AirAttack is one of the games that supports both the iCade Core and the original iCade from ThinkGeek. About the only game controller not supported is a collection of little plastic war planes that could be used as a stylus sliding back and forth on the iPad’s touch screen.


As each level progresses, your continuous fire cannon strikes down your opponents vehicles on land, sea and in the air. You do have manual control of bombs that can be dropped on enemy targets. When each targets or enemy craft is destroyed, additional points, power ups and in-game cash are scattered in the air in the form of stars and coins for you to pick up. The cash can then be used at various in-air checkpoints where you can land and purchase additional weapons, upgrades, shields, and even an extra life.


There are three difficulty settings that keep the game interesting by challenging your ability to stay alive.  While you do find yourself searching for patterns in the enemy’s attack formations to avoid being struck down, the patterns are random enough throughout the game to keep you on your toes.  For instance, there are times when the stream of fire stays on a given trajectory, and there are other times when guided missiles follow you for a period of time or you encounter planes that seem to hover before you then dart right at you when you were not expecting it.  Just when you think you have the enemy figured out, things seem to change.


At the end of each level is a boss battle that is quite different form forward-scrolling fights you have gotten familiar with earlier in the level.  These boss battles are not what you would expect to see in areal combat.  This includes encountering the occasional flying saucer, dodging huge boulders being shot from nearby active volcanoes, and gigantic mechanical robot shooting laser beams in all directions.  This weekend give this arcade shooter a try, and see if you have what it takes to complete the arcade mode and unlock the endless challenge that is AirAttack.

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