Anybody who has played a 2D shooter since the release of Capcom’s 1942 knows the drill: Shoot the enemies coming down the screen while dodging their bullets and collecting power-ups. Icarus-X doesn’t do much to improve on this formula, but it comes with good controls and nice graphics.
- Game: Icarus-X, Icarus-X Free
- Developer: The Quadsphere
- Links: Developer Homepage, Product Homepage
- Genre: Action, Shooter
- Players: 1
- Version: 1.0.4
- Price: €2.00 (estimated, see Market for current price)
On smartphones this genre got a bit of an upgrade by allowing you to control the position of your fighter directly and Icarus-X does not disappoint in this regard. It even offers two slightly different modes (which both work very well), allowing you to choose whether you want the fighter to appear at a fixed distance from your finger (you wouldn’t want to have the ship exactly where your finger is, as you wouldn’t be able to see it) or at the distance between where the ship and your finger were when you touched the screen. The only issue being that the game reserves the bottom 20% of the screen for the finger/fighter offset, even when you’re using the non-fixed offset mode.
When it comes to graphics, Icarus-X abandons its 2D roots and instead opts for 3D backgrounds and enemies, which look fittingly futuristic without bringing the framerate down too much: In fact Icarus-X often runs smoother than competing games that stick with 2D graphics, even on low-cost smartphones like the LG Optimus One P500.
The backgrounds fly by quickly, which can be slightly distracting but somehow fits the frantic arcade feel. The bigger problem is that some of the units are rather tiny and do not stick out against the background, making you overlook them every now and then. Luckily, the actual bullets are brightly colored so that you can quickly identify the more dangerous types of enemies by looking for the source of those.
Both enemies and backgrounds are well designed, but repeat a bit too quickly, which sums up Icarus-X’ problems pretty neatly: with a grand total of five stages (each with an endboss that turns into a regular enemy on the next stage), there isn’t a whole lot of variety. The endboss battles shake things up a little, but you don’t really need a special strategy, meaning that the only real differences to normal enemies are that they shoot more often and have more health. They generally seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, since winning or loosing seems quite random without any feedback about their health or the damage you’re doing. The game fails to inspire that “I nearly had him” feeling that a well-designed endboss usually provoke.
Looking at the technology, Icarus-X is for the most part solid, with no crashes or other bugs appearing during our testing. However, having no bugs doesn’t mean that it’s without issues. The initial loading time is quite long, which is made worse by the fact that doing anything, even just turning off the screen or hitting the back button will immediately quit the game. Together with the fact that you cannot save except for in-between missions this makes for a pretty deadly combination.
All in all, Icarus-X is a solid game, but the lack of variety and polish keep it from being one of the great ones.