How not to do it, Part 2

When you've seen how easily something can be done perfectly, seeing idiots bludgeon hamfistedly at it with big rocks is all the more depressing.

Strikers 1945 is one of the most popular vertically-scrolling shooter series of recent years, enjoying success across formats as diverse as the arcade, the Neo Geo and the PSP. The brilliance of Espgaluda 2 shows that vertical shmups can work incredibly well on the iPod.

2 + 2 = KERCHING!, right?

Wrong, of course. Unless Windysoft (no, really) had somehow managed to code this port in such a manner that pressing the Bomb button bricked your iPod's firmware and gave you an electric shock, it's hard to imagine how they could have made a clumsier, stupider or more incompetent job of bringing a very good game to a format for which it's extremely well suited.

The first slightly weird thing is the choice of game. Strikers 1945 1, 2 and 3 are all portrait-mode arcade games, whereas Strikers 1945 Plus – basically a version of S1945 2 – is a landscape-mode one designed chiefly for home formats (Neo Geo and PSP). So porting Plus specifically to the iPod, but then making it a portrait-mode game, is pretty messed-up thinking. 

Still, having made that decision (abandoning the obvious opportunity to use the extra space at the side of the screen for a virtual d-pad and buttons) you at least get a chunk of free space at the bottom of the screen that's tailor-made for the "anywhere pad" controls that worked so superbly for Espgaluda and Space Invaders Infinity Gene. So naturally, what you do is you put the world's worst fixed digital d-pad in the corner instead.

Non-retarded developers worked out some time ago that fixed digital d-pads are the worst of all possible options for porting games with traditional joypad controls to the iPod. Point-of-touch-relative analogue pads work the best, enabling the player to move their ship with precision and flexibility and obscuring the minimum of onscreen action, as well as allowing portrait-mode games to be played with the iPod held in a comfortable position.

Fixed analogue pads are the second-best, at least permitting smooth and cohesive movement with a direct and obvious correlation between the player's thumb gestures and the actions of their ship. Move your thumb up a little and your craft moves up a little, rather than doing absolutely nothing until your thumb reaches the undetectable digital trigger area of the virtual pad that counts as "up" and your ship suddenly lurches unexpectedly into an enemy bullet.

Fixed digital pads went out with the Ark for that very reason, yet that's the cretinously, inexplicably stupid choice the developers of Strikers 1945 Plus have picked. They've also had those controls coded by a drunk, blind monkey, resulting in a game that plays like you're trying to steer with a Sega Master System joypad that you've just fished out of a jar of three-year-old raspberry jam. You've simply never seen an iPod game with a virtual d-pad control this badly, even if you've seen Ghosts'n'Goblins: Gold Knights.

It's a pity, because the other coders have gone to a small amount of effort and introduced some potentially enjoyable new modes (Survival and Boss Rush) that might have been a lot of fun if you didn't have to effectively play them wearing boxing gloves. But the game is SO astonishingly unplayable thanks to the controls that they were wasting their time.

Strikers 1945 Plus was originally, hilariously, released with a $4.99 asking price. However, for today only it's free. What that means is that you should pick it up now, just to see how badly it's possible to make a vertical shmup on the iPod. If you've got Espagluda 2, maybe you could make some kind of Powerpoint Jekyll-and-Hyde presentation out of the two and tour the country giving game-development clinics to up-and-coming coders.

Or, at least, just hope it gets patched at some point in the future with a non-moronic control system, so that you can enjoy it for free when it's good.

 

Remember, if you don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch yet with which to enjoy the now-est gaming of the modern zeitgeist, you can still grab the games anyway with iTunes while they’re free, and upload them to your iPod when you get one.

And if you’re ready to join in the fun, you can do it at a giveaway price by subscribing to WoS, where subscribers learn how to pick up a brand-new 32GB 3rd-gen iPod Touch for just £6 – no strings, no contracts, no referrals, no getting other people do do anything, just a fun bit of exploiting capitalism for half-an-hour’s effort.

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5 Responses to “How not to do it, Part 2”

  1. I still didn't think the controls for GnG: GK were too bad…?

  2. THEN YOU WERE WRONG.

  3. I do have to say thanks for your great reviews on iPod apps. Espgaluda made my fear for bullet hell games go away. I'm not near your scores, but i'm getting better at it.
    I've read over there an interview where someone said apps could lead to a crash for the videogame market, in the sense that overflow of apps could be prejudicial to it. I think i read you saying otherwise, right?
    Lemme check strikers in the meantime.

  4. Update on Strikers: JESUS CHRIST! IT'S A CONTROL WRECK!

  5. Shame this as I'm still missing a decent iPod shooter.  Espgaluda won't work on my shabby 2nd-gen (bastards) and Assault Squadron, despite looking quite nice, feels like a Euro take on the JPN shooter and controls poorly.

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