Meteor Blitz blasts into town with a satisfying top-down shooter

Posted: September 16, 2009 in Shooter

Dual shooters seem to be as common as Match-3 and tower defense games in the iTunes store so it often takes something quite different to garner attention. Meteor Blitz certainly fits “different” delivering a visual and gameplay experience that frankly put it into the upper echelon in the category. If I were only talking about responsive controls, Meteor Blitz would already be a standout. However, it’s really the art and animation that pound this one home and comes with my highest recommendation.

The theme behind Meteor Blitz is Armageddon beginning on Earth and eventually on other worlds as each faces a barrage of meteors and a plethora of enemies intent on wiping out humanity. As a top-down shooter, the objective is a combination of dodge and shoot as you maneuver through fields of debris and fast approaching enemies including bosses set in 6 different worlds. One added element is the collection of rings which appear after destroying enemies which can then be used to upgrade weapons, hopefully increasing your odds for survival.

Visually, the game looks amazing and runs extremely smooth on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. For me, the meteors look like meteors and the enemies, well, look like enemies, but it’s the backgrounds that do it for me. When you’re flying over Earth for example, you’re not simply looking at a blue background with an occasional continent that appears every so often. There is cloud cover and haze that really give the background some depth. Later with the more otherworldly locations such as the lava planet and the barren ice world, the visuals pop and serve as a great backdrop to all the chaos above.

Meteor Blitz consists of two game modes: Arcade and Survival. Arcade takes you through the 6 worlds each of which has 5 stages that must be completed to unlock the next world. Survival tests your high-scoring abilities in an ongoing blitz of meteors and alien ships before losing all your lives. The dual-stick control scheme is among one of the strongest I’ve used providing responsive movement and accurate shooting. The left stick controls steering while the right is used for targeted shooting. A rather nice touch is the automatic pause function which is activated when you lift your thumbs off the screen. The devs may want to consider adding alternate control options since dual control pads may not appeal to everyone. But they did include other things such an auto-save function (that saves everything exactly where you left off), online scoreboards, and the ability to listen to your own music while playing.

As I mentioned, rings are collected that can be used to purchase weapons upgrades. Your ship has three weapons each upgradeable several times for a price: plasma gun, flamethrower, and ice cannon. In addition, the rings can also be used for upgrading nukes, boost and gravity gun. Nukes are your typical ho-hum screen-clearing bombs, but the gravity gun is a fun weapon and incorporates physics into the game. When activated, the gravity gun is used to attract meteors and then propel them at enemies, which when done right is quite exhilarating. Done wrong, and you end up damaging or destroying your own ship. Boost gives you a speed jolt as destroy everything in your path. Both the gravity gun and boost can be set to be activated by shaking your device, and for those like me who hate shaking my device, a double-tap option on the movement sticks are available—left control stick for boost, right control stick for gravity gun. Just remember to double tap again to release an object when using the gravity gun.

Because there are different types of obstacles, understanding and mastering the three weapons is essential since they have different effects. Learning to shuffle weapons which is done through the on-screen shuffle bar, during the intensity adds significantly to the gameplay. As is typical with asteroid shooters, large meteors inconveniently separate into smaller pieces when hit, and thus become more obstacles. Meteor Blitz takes it a step further as objects hurling through the upper atmosphere come in all shapes, sizes and materials. For example, frozen objects which are basically giant snowballs are more easily neutralized with the flamethrower, while the flames on fireballs are readily dispatched with the ice gun. Don’t get me wrong, you can still rely on the handy plasma gun, but it will just prolong the task at hand.

Meteor Blitz does a nice job integrating boss fights in each stage. Bosses have health bars so you can see your progress, and once defeated, you move on to the next stage. Keep in mind, bosses yield the most rings so you’ll want to collect as many as possible for upgrades. And there are also temporary power ups that you need to shoot in order to collect including extra lives, bombs, shields, enemy slow down, and the ability to attract coins. On the top of that, Meteor Blitz has an achievement system with recognition for enemies destroyed, points scored, and worlds saved.

The gameplay is frenzied and one that I enjoy tremendously. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that since I tend to become jaded after playing with as many games as I have. The game starts out rather easily, but don’t let that trick you into complacency. Meteor Blitz gets more difficult as meteors literally drop right on top of you, and enemies spawn in larger and larger numbers. Being able to see clearly through the carnage is one challenge as the visual effects are everywhere in the form of high energy explosions as well as the weapons fire. Initially, you may be able to get through stages without using the boost, but as the stages get more crowded, speeding through and blasting your way out will be your only option. The gravity gun adds a new dimension to the gameplay, and once you’re comfortable with it, it’s a rather handy tool in your arsenal.

Meteor Blitz really does put a blitz on the category because it offers the familiarity of a top-down shooter, yet provides quite a different experience that makes it one of the best. Responsive controls, high quality visuals, gameplay depth and overall polish make Meteor Blitz an easy choice.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (one of the top shooters and recommended for anyone who’s even remotely interested; definitely a worthy addition and has enough differences to set it apart from others)


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