Siberian Strike serves up a big vodka shooter

Posted: May 19, 2009 in Shooter

Genetically engineered vodka…

This the secret weapon developed by Stalinka Corporation and the underlying theme behind Siberian Strike, a terrifically fun and humorous game. Stalinka’s CEO is Stalin-bot, a genetic crossbreed between Stalin and the Mir space station, who has developed vodka that removes the willpower of those who drink it. In a mission code name “Siberian Strike”, you play one of three Russian elite pilots who serve as the world’s only hope to stop Stalin-bot and his forces. With its quirky humor, high production values, and challenging and gameplay, Siberian Strike is among the best top-down 3D shooters currently available on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform.

From the opening intro video reminiscent of those historical war documentaries, Siberian Strike just exudes fun combining the arcade feel of the 1980s with the functionality and intensity of today. Visually, the gameplay is similar to what you’ve seen in other top-down shooters, but what differentiates Siberian Strike from others is the cartoonish packaging that can be seen in the cheesy cut scenes, high energy soundtrack and lofty voiceovers.

There are 12 missions consisting mostly of the top-down variety dealing with waves of enemy attacks. But also included is a variety of 3D Starfox-like missions that involve flying through valleys, tunnels, and canyons, dodging ice and shooting turrets. With 4 difficulty levels—easy, normal, medium, and hard—I find the medium setting offered the right balance of challenge for me, and you may want to initially use the normal setting to familiarize yourself with the controls and maps. Siberian Strike has two game modes: story (campaign), free mission (quick play with high scores for each unlocked level completed in story mode), and multiplayer (done over wi-fi sharing resources and best for the most difficult levels).

You can select from one of three pilots and their planes: Eliza McCampbell (B-87 Sicarius), Eliot Freeman (R-51 Thunder), and Pappy T. Wilder (P-69 Conquest), each with their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to fire power and speed. The storyline stays essentially the same regardless of which character you choose. The planes can be controlled via touch or accelerometer (with a calibration setting) with shooting done by touching the screen, and the plane will continuously fire as long as your finger touches the screen. In general, the touch controls are solid and extremely responsive. On the other hand, the accelerometer controls feel loose, and many times, my plane would overcompensate even when I barely tilted.

Various power ups include health, quick repair, extra lives, shields, arrows, flame, mega bomb, lightening, and my favorite, team attack (which temporarily brings all three fighters together). By meeting scoring requirements, you receive increases in rank and unlock up to 12 different colors for your plane. At the completion of each level, a statistics page appears showing points scored and minutes spent with a follow-up page displaying rank and points needed to move up to the next rank.

In the upper left corner, a gauge monitors your energy, and in the lower left are the mega bombs that are activated by touch. On the lower right is the special shot which is activated either by (touch) touching two fingers to the screen or (tilt) touching one finger to the screen. The special shot can be difficult to activate especially when using touch controls since you’re also trying to maneuver the plane, but it’s doable with practice.

At the start of the game, you have 3 lives and 3 continues. Continues allow for continuation of game at the point of destruction after all lives have been used. The gameplay in Siberian Strike is fast and furious with chaos at every second of the game. From the waves of fighters and bombers to battleships and aircraft carriers, the game is well-done and balanced. With typical top-down shooters, the screen is limited to what is in front of you. In Siberian Strike, the screen shifts so you actually have more screen space to move and maneuver. The challenge here is that enemy planes can also shoot and crash in from the sides. As enemies are destroyed, medals appear that can be collected and for every 100 medal collected, you earn an additional continue. Later on, you’ll also need to watch out for Stalinka bottles that cause your pilot temporary wooziness and makes your plane erratic. Like I said, the game has a good dose of quirky humor.

Each of the missions culminates in a boss battle that is preceded by a cut scene where you basically insult the boss before the showdown. The boss battles are not overly complex and before each battle, a map shows the boss’ weak spots. Throughout the experience, the graphics and sound are amazing with smooth animation and rip roaring weapons fire and explosions. I mentioned the Starfox-like missions, and these consist of a waiting for a radar target to line up over a turret and then hitting the fire button while also dodging obstacles. This is a nice change of pace and allows you to catch your breath. And, throughout the game, supporting voiceovers add to the overall excitement as well as a sense of achievement, which is just another sign of the high production values.

Aside from the loose tilt controls, Siberian Strike has little downside. You can probably finish the game in a few hours if you’re a hardcore gamer because the levels aren’t very long. But, you will certainly get your money’s worth in terms of the content that is packed into this fun shooter.

Albie Meter: 5 stars (at the current $.99 sale price, Siberian Strike is a no brainer for fans of shooters)

Check out my impressions on TouchArcade at http://toucharcade.com/2009/05/20/more-gameloft-sales-assassins-creed-and-siberian-strike/

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