App Review: MiniSquadron
Everyone knows that Angry Birds by Rovio is one of the hottest games across all mobile platforms right now, but would you believe me if I said that the hype for that game is causing us to miss out on other hidden gems in the app catalog? One extremely fun game, MiniSquadron by Supermono Limited, has taken me for loop-de-loops and left me diving for more, even while Angry Birds is getting regular updates. To be completely honest and to say it frankly: Mini Squadron is a highly underated dogfighter game that might even stand a chance at being called "better" than that classic game of birds vs pigs.
Even with the few flaws that were encountered in the gameplay, this underdog in the mobile game world is a whole lot of fun to play and is really easy to get into. But you'll have to jump after the break to catch a video and read more about why MiniSquadron is the next game you should check out on your webOS device.
MiniSquadron is a fun dogfighter type game where you get into the cockpit of one of several dozen different planes (and other machines of flight) to fight your way from one land to the next. Each level causes you to learn how to better maneuver your plane through the ever-changing levels and take advantage of various in-game features, like fast dives, random power-ups and quick-thinking dodges or attacks. You learn it all gradually, though, starting off the game by fighting a few ducks and building onto that until you are combating an enemy team with several dozen opponents who are not only flying faster and stronger planes, but are also shooting at you from the ground and the sky with missiles, lasers, machine guns, air strikes and more. It gets pretty intense as the game goes on, and yet it still holds onto the fun, cartoony feel and hoppy classical music that changes with each level.
When you start off the game (in Classic Mode) you have one plane and are given a quick tutorial of the visual cues on the screen. The top bar holds such information as how many lives you have left, the score, how many enemies remain in that level and the pause button (in that order). The bottom of the screen provides your two action pads; the left is for moving your plane around the screen, the right is for firing whatever weapon you might have with the chosen plane. As you go further into the levels that are on Duck Island (the first area that you are to conquer), you'll learn the importance of a good dive, how to get a stalled plane running again, and what each of those power-ups will do as you get them.
The key to beating later areas and harder levels is to unlock new planes (which bring improvements to weapons, speed, armor, etc..) earlier on as quickly as possible. You'll also start unlocking new planes to select after that area has been beaten or you lose all of your lives (you start off with three lives, and can gain more by grabbing the hearts that pass by on the screen). As far as I can tell, you unlock planes by beating certain levels with specific planes, by beating a high score or by getting a kill-streak before dying, but there is no explanation in the game to confirm which one of these ways is correct, so you'll need to try them all for yourself. With 56 planes available to unlock, though, you'll spend plenty of time playing through all of the levels to try and figure that part out.
As you start fighting more and more planes, including machine-gunner UFO's and fork-shaped flyers that shoot orange bombs from their tops, you'll also start to grab more power-ups that will help you finish the level. These power-ups come in the style of different colored falling stars, and each color represents a different power-up. One will speed you up, another will slow you down, another will double the speed of your attacks and another will launch a dozen missiles at the nearest enemy target. My favorite, and the hardest one to get, naturally, is the Big Laser, which essentially destroys any planes that you aim it at. Don't underestimate the power of these little stars, though, you'll be sorry if one of the enemy gets them instead of you. Yes, they can grab the power-ups just as easily as you can, and can cause a lot of foul-words to come flying out of your mouth if you only had one life left to begin with.
A few improvements
There are few areas that the game could improve, but considering that the developers have already released a Special Edition version for other platforms, we may just need to get them a little nudge with some more downloads to see them port over the other games to webOS. As it is, though, a lack of clear understanding how to unlock planes and the near impossibility of the final levels makes it difficult to give the game a perfect review. Without a way to know how to unlock the final UFO in the game, many users may give up after spending quite a few hours trying to find that solution.
The other problem, though this is really a matter of a missing feature on webOS that other platforms already have, is the lack of multiplayer action in the game. The game trailer even touts this as one of the coolest features, and it really would be, if only it was available for webOS users as well as the others. But again, since they've already released this feature to other platforms, they may just need a little nudge (which this review will hopefully produce).
Lastly, I would love to see how I compare to other MiniSquadron players. The very nature of dogfighter games means that the people playing are competitive, so why not let us see how we stack up against other gamers?
Even with those small glitches, I can't help but pick up this game every few days and play it for a while. It's a lot of fun when you're first learning it, and stays fun even after you've beaten it (and unlocked all of the planes). Since each level changes (the enemy planes don't fly in the same patterns) every time you play it, the replayability of MiniSquadrons is huge as well, and it's still just as much fun several weeks after downloading as it was when I first bought it from the App Catalog.
MiniSquadron is $2.99 for all webOS users version 1.4.5 and up, and is a game that is not worth passing up. If you liked Angry Birds (and we all know you do), then you'll love MiniSquadron, too. Perhaps even better! As I said once before to a few friends when sharing the game, MiniSquadron gives a whole new meaning to "shooting birds" in the mobile gaming industry. But that's not necessarily a bad thing to change.
Go grab the game and show the enemy who's the real king of the skies out there.