Many long hours of my youth were spent clutching the NES controller, pounding away at the buttons and letting the plentiful bullets fly with the likes of Contra, Blaster Master and Mega Man.

So when I first saw the announcement for GlitchSoft’s retro-looking gun-crazy 2D side-scrolling game, Star Marine: Infinite Ammo, there was no doubt that I would be picking it up. No Konami code needed to unlock the infinite ammo in this game, heck, they’ve even gone an put it right there in the title.

Instead of the NES’s cross-shaped d-pad and two buttons, in Star Marine, players have a virtual stick on the left which they drag left and right to move, and on the right are a jump button and a virtual d-pad which is used to control which direction you are shooting. For the most part, these controls work quite well. My only real complaint here is that with the stock assault rifle (and a few of the other weapons), the number of shooting angles feels too restrictive. You don’t get a full 360 degrees of rotation, it just cycles between 8 pre-defined angles (3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock and the angle in between each). This isn’t really as much of an issue when you have a weapon like “the crippler”, which has a wider spray of bullets. Though I suppose that one could argue that this restriction just adds to the retro feel.

Players battle their way through 11 increasingly difficult levels. GlitchSoft has done a particularly nice job with the level design and difficulty grading, introducing new enemies based on the previous levels’ ‘epic boss’. While eleven levels may not sound like a lot, you will find yourself having to replay previous levels multiple times in order to level up your character enough to successfully complete the current level and unlock the next.

Unlocking weapons, upgrades, abilities, additional health bar units and consumables (Nuke, Icarus Wing and Stimpack) is all done via an in-game currency called gems. While gem packs can be purchased with real money (for impatient people), GlitchSoft provides players with ample opportunities for earning free gems as well. First, gems are naturally acquired as you play through levels and earn points. There is also a really cool in-game challenge system where you earn gems by completing items from a list of tasks which include things like “get 5 kills with the assault rifle”. You are also rewarded with gems just for watching some completely optional 14 second ads, which I actually found to be one of the quickest ways to level up, though the ads do not display correctly in the first level. I’m really pleased with they way it’s been implemented, in that beyond the initial $1.99 purchase price, you really don’t need to spend any more money to experience the full game.

I know it may sound a bit cliche, but the game literally is action-packed. Perhaps even a little more than the iPhone 4’s processor can handle, as there is an occasional stutter in the frame rate when there is a lot of action going on the screen at once.

At the end of a level, your data is uploaded to Game Center. Unfortunately the game appears to be blissfully unaware of whether or not you actually have an internet connection. I was recently playing the game while on a plane and it just sat there indefinitely trying to upload my score. I had to quit the game and relaunch in order to get out of the loop.

Right now Star Marine is only available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In the future, I’d really love to be able to play this on my iPad (and if possible) the iCade. Unfortunately due to the control scheme, I don’t know how easy it’d be to get working with the iCade, but I’d love to see GlitchSoft give it a go.

In Conclusion

Star Marine: Infinite Ammo is nearly everything I hoped it’d be. With its retro feel, fun collection of weapons, varied enemies, boss battles and of course loads of bullets, it rekindled my love of the classic 2D side-scrolling shooter/platformer. I highly recommend this game!