At first glance, Ion Assault seems to be your typical arcade shooter in the vein of Geometry Wars.
Much like Geometry Wars, you control a spaceship from a top-down perspective and fly around an enclosed area shooting bad guys, but this is where the similarity ends. Read on to find out if Ion Assault can differentiate itself from the pack or ends up being “just another shmup”.
Ion Assault adds an interesting twist on the Geometry Wars model. The gun on your spaceship works by absorbing particular matter from space and then discharging it. Unlike Geometry Wars, you can’t rapidly fire your gun. Instead, you are forced to evade enemies while you charge up your attack. Because your gun is absorbing matter, your spaceship gains more mass the longer you charge your attack. This means your ship is harder to handle while its gun is charged up.
The whole objective of Ion Assault is to destroy all the asteroids in the level. This may sound easy, but when dozens of enemies start warping in, I’m sure the game will change your tune. In order to mix up the gameplay, there are a wide variety of power-ups and enemies. The power-ups range from shields to vortex grenades, which act like a black hole, sucking in all nearby particular matter; any asteroids and enemies who are in range get pulled into a tight ring and then explode, damaging the lot.
While these concepts are neat in theory, the enemies in Ion Assault are quite generic. There are spaceships that lay mines, shoot lasers, or just kamikaze into you. Boss fights are typically just a big non-characteristic spaceship that has every type of attack and takes tons of damage. If you just slow down and watch for a pattern, the bosses are easy as pie.
My main complaint about Ion Assault is its particle physics engine. You see, the particle matter that charges your gun is represented by little clouds of light. The thing is, there are so many light particles on top of all the action that it’s easy to lose sight of where your ship is.
I kept dying, not because the enemies trapped me or because I couldn’t control my ship, but because there was just too much stuff going on the screen. I would understand if this was a problem on standard definition televisions, but I played through Ion Assault on my 40″ HDTV at 720P.
The single-player campaign is also relatively short, spanning 20+ levels, including boss fights. In fact, I was able to complete the game in under three hours. There is a co-op mode, but the screen is already too crowded, so adding another player makes the game almost unplayable.
Overall, I really enjoyed the interesting twist on the arcade shooter genre. Weaving through bad guys while trying to find pockets of particles is a fun experience. The problem is, as the levels got more difficult (crowded), I found myself relying more on luck rather than skill.
If you are a fan of Geometry Wars and its ilk, you might want to check out Ion Assault‘s demo. The thing is, I can’t recommend this game to anyone at its current price. At 800 Microsoft Points ($10), the game just feels shallow.
To add insult to injury, once you’re done with the 20+ levels, there is nothing more to do. There are no varying difficulty levels, very few achievements, and lackluster multiplayer. If money isn’t a problem for you and you’re a big fan of arcade shooters, give Ion Assault a try; but if you’re a broke college student like myself, you might want to download the demo first.
The particle effects and lighting are very pretty, but they often get in the way of the action.
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Taking rapid fire out of the shooter genre, Ion Assault offers a unique twist that makes you think as you play.
The sound effects and music are functional, but nothing is particularly unique.
With only a few levels and lack luster multiplayer, you'll finish the game in an afternoon and be done with it.
Ion Assault is an enjoyable game, but it's way too short to warrant the $10 price tag.