Top down shooters on the iPhone seem to be required to follow three basic rules of gameplay. The first is restrict movement to tilt controls so that the player is either unable to aim correctly or see the screen at a proper angle. The second is offer very little innovation in the genre. The third is shoe horn a story mode that makes you believe you’re playing something other than an arcade mode. Armoured Shift manages to follow all these rules and break no boundaries as a cheap, but amusing, addition to the iPhone game library.
Shooters have always worked best when moving a player in one direction, either from the bottom to the top or from the left to the right of the screen. It gives a player a sense of accomplishment and the ability to control the ship in an effective way. Armoured Shift throws you into a ship in space with 360 degrees of maneuverability, but no easy explanation on where to go. Surrounding the ship is a circular HUD that gives a visual representation of health and boost, as well as a thin outer shell that’ll display objects in the distance either with a green or red dot. Flying towards these dots will cause them to grow slightly bigger but then appear on your screen without a whole lot of time to avoid causing unnecessary damage to your ship or killing you outright. Movement is mapped to the gyroscope inside the iPhone a lot like other games including Super Monkey Ball. I can understand not wanting to draw a non-responsive d-pad on the screen like other games but controlling the ship by tilting the iPhone should not be the answer; it is just too uncontrollable.
There are two modes of play: story mode takes the player through a series of challenges that will test your precision with the tilt controls, and an arcade mode tasking you with destroying enemies and completing objectives to earn points before your lives run out to rank up on leaderboard. Training is very slow and will teach you enough information to fly around and shoot before you are fed up with waiting for the next prompt and quit. It is enough to keep you busy on a quick bus ride but don’t expect to pump more than a few hours before boredom sets in.
Graphically, the iPhone is a mixed bag when it comes to their games. It’s not a beefy machine but the device is able to compete with other handheld gaming platforms. What makes the device unique is its ability to attract less than mainstream development teams. This is why having to compare a game like Armoured Shift to a game like Assassin’s Creed is impossible but necessary. Armoured Shift in no way can be considered a great looking game; the backgrounds are static pictures of space, enemies are of dull design, and the player never really gets a good sense of speed. However, there is still plenty of charm for this $0.99 cent game and if you’re fans of the genre can see that their dollar purchase is well spent.