"Hey!", I thought, when I saw the name Phoenix on my iPod. "Taito must be releasing a series of arcade classics on the iPhone. Fantastic!" Then I saw the screenshots and realised it was not Phoenix from the arcades at all, but an entirely different game. Swizz!
Die, alien scum! That was a bit predictable, wasn't it?
It's a little bit naughty giving a game an already-well-established name. It's a bit like forming a rock band now and calling them The Human League, or something. Except you'd get killed for that, obviously.
Still, on second glance I noticed it was actually a shooting game... not only that, it looked like a bit of a bullet hell affair. So I checked the requirements... I'd been very keen to buy Espgaluda II, but I've got a first generation iPod Touch and (disappointingly) that game won't run on the 1st gen models. But all was well... Phoenix runs on everything.
A shield! Nice. Now I can get in there and really give them what for.
If you look Phoenix up on iTunes, the lack of any kind of storyline is both hilarious and refreshing. There are no pretentions here: you just fly up the screen and shoot everything. Great.
Phoenix has got a typical iPhone control method. You slide your finger around the screen to move your ship, which fires by itself. Your ship is quite big, and this makes it quite easy to control. In fact, out of all the shooters I've played on my iPod Touch, this is the one I've had least problems and most joy with when it comes to the controls.
Now we're talking! Come on, I'll take you all!
Although your ship is big, the hitbox is not, so with careful manoeuvring you can steer your way around most of the bullet patterns that are thrown your way. That means it's quite easy to concentrate on blowing stuff up.
I love blowing stuff up, and Phoenix really does do it pretty well. Ships of various sizes stream down the screen, and you blow them up. Various pickups will appear as you shoot stuff, ranging from shields to weapons upgrades to special attacks. When large ships are destroyed, any bullets that remain on the screen will be converted to bonuses, which automatically flow into your ship to add to your points total. It's a familiar mechanic, but no less enjoyable for it.
Ahh, that's the stuff! Now, I am eeenveeenceeblllllle!
Phoenix boasts of being different every time you play, due to a revolutionary procedural content generator that spawns different attack patterns depending on how well you're doing. As you progress, the difficulty level ramps up too, from one star all the way to five. As you only get one life (but can take a few hits before death), you'll have to be careful as those stars light up...
Any possible disappointment that this isn't the 1980 arcade game is quickly washed away in a hail of bullets. Phoenix is a nice, if repetitive blaster, which I've enjoyed quite a bit so far. It certainly isn't on the level of quality or complexity of the Cave shooters, but on the other hand that could be quite a draw to a number of people... sometimes it's too frustrating to have your backside kicked to Kingdom Come. If you've got a first generation iPhone or iPod Touch and are missing out on Cave's games, or feel like dipping your toe into the waters of bullet hell shooters, Phoenix will fit the bill very nicely indeed.
Buy it on iTunes for 59p