Every gamer worth their salt has a lot of memories of Contra. You may know the game as Probotector, but whatever you called it, you knew it was hard. In an age when all games were basically far more difficult than they are today, Contra still stood out as being a super tough game, and that rule applied to all it’s sequels and spin offs.
So, when you boot up a Contra clone for the iPhone you hope you are going to be in for a rough ride, and Star Marine: Infinite Ammo doesn’t really let you down in this regard.
It was always going to be a tough ask getting the controls right on a touch screen, and I must say the developer has done a really good job here. You can move and fire in all directions using a twin virtual stick setup, with a few buttons dotted around for other functions. The best way to describe the way it feels is to imagine playing a twin stick shooter as a platform game, and it works for the most part. It obviously can never be as accurate as a real d pad and buttons, and there will be times where you do die because you lost track of the controls, but not as much as you might think.
The developer has sought to level the playing field that has been altered in the enemies favour by the touch controls by giving you an energy bar, which does of course make the game feel a little bit less dangerous than it would do if everything killed you with one hit. Survival mode does help to add a bit of extra difficulty.
There are seven different weapons to collect throughout the adventure, and all of them are pretty useful, especially the Decimator HD; a fantastic grenade launcher. The ten levels to play through will keep you going for a while, but be warned; this is nowhere near as tough as Contra, so you will definitely see all the stages within a few hours.
The bosses are a highlight and there is one big boss for each stage and they are all mean and merciless. The bosses come in all shapes and sizes, and attack from all different angles and in some really interesting situations that really bring back of those Contra memories. The rest of the enemies are a little bit uninspired in their design, it has to be said. Taken on their own they are not bad, but when compared to the great ideas that created each boss they are a bit lacking.
The graphics are decent, when all is said and done. The main characters look and feel a bit floaty, but everything is really well drawn and defined and there are some good level designs on display here. The game runs smoothly with only a rare drop in framerate, and I look forward to seeing what the developer does next, as there aren’t too many games with sprites that are not overly retro in their design in the App Store.
There is a fair bit of content in Star Marine. In addition to the 10 levels of the main game, there are Game Center leaderboards and achievements, as well as 100 in-game challenges, as well as two extra modes, Survival and the very welcome Boss Rush mode. I love Boss Rush modes, and it always puzzles me why more developers don’t include them, as it is an easy way to add more content using the same resources. The ability to outfit and customise your marine is a stroke of genius.
One big thing is missing, and that is a multiplayer mode. The best thing about all those rock hard platform shooters of the 1990’s was taking on the challenge with a friend at your side. Maybe online multiplayer was out of the question, but I am really, genuinely disappointed that there is not a local WiFi or Bluetooth mode included.
Overall, this is a decent game, but is lacking the solidity and finesse that made Contra great, as well as a two player mode. I really hope the developer pushes on from here, as the graphics are decent and the gameplay is a lot better than I feared it would be. With some great, memorable bosses and weapons, Star Marine: Infinite Ammo is a good shooter with a lot of unused potential.