Gamers of a certain age will feel a sense of nostalgia from Space Falcon Reloaded, an alien-blasting space scrolling game that evokes the arcade classics of yore. Nostalgia is about the only feeling this game will inspire, however, as unimaginative gameplay makes Space Falcon Reloaded a rather run-of- the-mill and ultimately forgettable game for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
In this offering from Rapid Turtle Games, an alien horde is bent on conquering the universe, and the only thing standing in the way of total annihilation is the souped-up Space Falcon warship. You command the Space Falcon as it withstands wave after wave of alien attackers, blasting every extra terrestrial in your path. All of this is spelled out in an opening screen crawl read by a computerized narrator, which provides an “All your base are belong to us” feel to the game—an effect that I’m sure is not purely unintentional. (Annoyingly, that crawl appears each time you tap Play, though tapping again circumvents the backstory.)
Space Falcon Reloaded scrolls in portrait mode, even in the iPad-optimized version of the game. Your spaceship constantly fires as well, meaning you’re responsible mainly for moving the Space Falcon from side to side; tap on buttons on either side of the bottom of the screen to avoid enemy fire and onrushing attackers. Along the way, you can pick up power-ups, including shields, extra lives, and bonus points. Other power-ups include alternative weapons, which you fire by tapping a button in the middle of the directional controls, and special weapons activated by tapping anywhere else on the screen. The game supports both iOS’s Game Center and Open Feint, allowing you to compare your scores and achievements with other players’.
The Retina display-friendly graphics are Space Falcon Reloaded’s strongest suit, with gorgeous backgrounds and detailed alien attackers. If you spent the 1980s hanging out in arcades, you might regard Space Falcon Reloaded as a gussied-up version of Galaga or even Space Invaders. (Rapid Turtle Games goes so far as to invite the comparison to the latter—one of the waves features a Space Invaders-style grid of approaching enemy spacecraft.)
If the graphics impress, the controls do not. Even with Space Falcon Reloaded’s limited set of buttons, the controls feel clunky, especially on the iPhone’s smaller screen. Maneuvering my ship back and forth while also having to tap a center button to deploy my alternative weapon felt awkward. As for the special weapons that you activate by tapping anywhere above your regular controls, an inadvertent tap can have you deploying—and wasting—your extra firepower at inopportune moments.
Frustrating controls aside, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Space Falcon Reloaded, but there’s nothing particularly memorable about the game, either. It’s among the growing scores of not particularly remarkable games available in the App Store that you might download, play a few times, and then forget about. Fans of scrolling space games may find something to like here, but Space Falcon Reloaded fails to capture the imagination found in the classic arcade games it hopes to emulate.
[Philip Michaels is the executive editor of Macworld.com.]