It has been ten months since we last reviewed a bullet hell game for the iPhone, something we’re changing today with AngerForce Strikers, a steampunk-ish game promising exciting gameplay and cool visuals. This is appropriate, as the last game we reviewed was Sina Mora, still one of the best looking shoot ‘em ups we’ve ever seen for the iPhone, which was set in a dieselpunk world.
AngerForce Strikers is far less lavish than Sina Mora. It’s also a more traditional bullet hell game, in that it’s a vertical scroller with no real plot. It’s certainly not explained in the game, but a quick look at the iTunes page reveals something about a war between humans and machines. As usual, it really doesn’t matter, so let’s get into the game itself.
Graphically, it’s suitably different and in places, quite attractive. The steampunk-ish environment and enemies all have a colourful, cartoon-style look, a departure from the grimy metal-and-leather clad worlds most associated with the genre. The main menu looks great, with lots of cogs and gears whirring round, while the short cut scenes are also very atmospheric, if a little pointless.
You start the game with one character, Sam Hill, who seems to ride on a weird hover chariot, and wields a big sword. Your vehicle automatically starts firing, and doesn’t stop until you’re dead. Sadly, you’re stuck with a single weapon, which is a surprise in a bullet hell game, where ridiculous, over-the-top gunfire is expected. Worse still, either your gun is rather feeble, or the enemies are a bit too tough. Killing even the most basic enemies takes far too long, and with no option to find stronger weaponry, it gets frustrating.
There are two special attacks at your disposal. One, which is like a powerful laser blast, doesn’t seem to help much, and the other sees the character swing his sword. Not what you need in the middle of a big fight. Also, to activate the sword, you need to tap the screen with two fingers, or locate a particular button. Again, it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to avoid all the incoming fire. Unusually, there’s no indication of where the sweet spot is on your craft. In most bullet hell games, there is one particular spot which has to avoid being hit, and it’s normally either pointed out, or obvious. Not so in AngerForce Strikers, so you’re left guessing on the best path to take through the hail of bullets.
AngerForce Strikers doesn’t hold back on the bullets either. The second and third levels are difficult enough, especially the big end-of-level nasties. The game provides another three characters from which to choose, all with different powers and weapons, to help you deal with the onslaught. However, they are all locked at the start, and instead of being unlocked by progressing through the game, you need to pay extra for them using in-app purchases. The game is £1.99 on its own, and at least one of the characters is priced higher than this original cost. We’ve never been fans of in-app purchases, but this is particularly unpleasant.
Faced with the option of paying more money, and subsequently being disappointed, or simply not playing anymore, the latter is the more attractive. The decision to go for more money, instead of thinking about the player and the game, is unfortunate, and makes us hesitant to recommend giving AngerForce Strikers a try. There are things to like though. The control system is good, and the audio is fun, and it all looks quite polished. It’s also universal for the iPhone and the iPad.
If you’re on the look out for some bullet hell fun on the iPhone, give AngerForce Strikers a miss, and check out Danmaku Unlimited 2 instead. It’s an vastly superior bullet hell game, with cracking graphics and a great soundtrack, clever controls, and no irritating in-app purchases.