Everything old is new again. Call it nostalgia, call it not having learned history and therefore being doomed to repeat it, call it retro – that which has occurred will occur once more. In today's world of videogames and growing quantities of downloadable content, you can see the return of plenty of old titles, some have been gussied up and others have stayed true to what they were upon initial release, warts and all.
Lying somewhere between the original version and a gussied up one lies The Red Star. Originally released on PS2 in 2007, The Red Star has, as of this month, been ported to the PSP and now is due to be released on the iPhone at some point this spring. It is this last version, the iPhone one, that we got the chance to sit down and check out this past week.
First the old – the game itself is the exact same one that made its way to the PS2, no changes to the graphics, enemies, levels, etc. On the iPhone it all looked good enough – there was nothing there to blow us away, but nothing that left something to be desired either.
It is an action shooter, one based on the graphic novel of the same name, and where you get to control one of three characters (only two of which are available at the outset). The story takes place in a futuristic world, Russia and its satellite nations still exists as a Communist superpower, one known as the URRS (United Republics of the Red Star). Your job in the game is simple – destroy anyone and everything in your path. Sometimes those things are people and sometimes they are massive machines (bosses, if you will). Your main attacks here come from a gun and fists, though you do have a shield, and a couple of other tricks up your sleeve as well.
Now, where the game is different than its PS2 and PSP predecessors are in the control scheme – as you would pretty much expect from a touch-screen based iPhone instead of a controller-based system. Movement is handled easily enough, with you touching the screen and then sliding your finger in the direction you want to go. Combat is a little more difficult. The game does have a lock-on feature, but it requires that you tap the screen (anywhere) and then tap the guy you want to attack, press the fire button on the right side of the screen and lay waste to your enemy. It takes some getting used to, but by the end of our time with the game we were certainly starting to get the hang of it. It did still seem a little difficult to hit the exact right spot in order to lock on, especially when the targets are moving and the screen is small – we can't wait to see what the title will look like on the iPod Touch XL… errr… iPad. It should be easier to lock on, but will the time it takes to move your finger to the fire button allow your enemies to gain the upper hand?
We're told that the current plan is to give purchasers of The Red Star the option of buying the full title at once or as three separate episodes (pricing TBD). As a shooter, it certainly has that pick-up-and-play feel to it that could make it a big success on the iPhone, if people find the control scheme acceptable.