In third grade, I would draw up notebook-paper hybrids of arcade games. Pac-Man would chase barrels with a hammer and Frogger shot at invaders from the highway. Flick Rocket, a hybridised, deeply nostalgic arcade shooter, strongly appeals to my inner eight-year-old game designer.
Drawing on Asteroids, Space Invaders, Centipede and Missile Command, with nods to games like Ladybug to boot, Flick Rocket, for iOS devices, hooks you with memories of the arcade, and of the frenetic five-minute bursts of gameplay found within, But without quarters or the mandate to make them hold out as long as possible, you end up with a shooter where you hurl everything up the wall, see what hits, and hope it lasts.
In Flick Rocket You're in control of a missile launcher with one direction of movement, left or right, protecting eight cities (or buildings), somewhat like Missile Command. The threat from above is either a formation of aliens like Space Invaders a meteor shower of fragmenting space rocks akin to Asteroids, or a winding bug like Centipede, whose segments turn to mushrooms when shot.
Your attacks are triggered by flicks on the iOS' multitouch screen. If you fling from the position of the rocket, none of the launches will feel like they have much precision. It's better to swipe your finger close to (if not directly over) the target, although still, the threat from above will soon prove to be more than you can handle.
Playing Flick Rocket's "arcade" mode, which cycles through the various stages, I inevitably lost the most cities (or failed out altogether) on the Asteroids level. In "Campaign" mode, which lets you face the waves separately, I did much better, especially when I sacrificed the cities on one side of the screen and focused my attacks on the other. In Campaign, there are seven question marks to be filled in with later title updates (the game released July 26). So who knows what else we'll see with later versions of the game.
The game doesn't really force you to play in any sophisticated way, though. I lasted the longest when I conceded one side of the screen and protected the other, an arcade tactic as old as I am. You can spam your missile launches and make it through the early stages of any mode, and have a puncher's chance in later rounds, especially since your rockets will rebound off the top and travel the screen until they hit a foe. Power-ups, which freeze the enemy or project a shield over your cities, help to extend the game, but there's no strategic purpose to be gained beyond activating them as soon as they're available
What gives Flick Rocket its winning appeal is the stylised, pixelated presentation and the 1980s soundtrack. The 99-cent price tag doesn't hurt either. Still, much of the game's promise seems to be behind those question marks.
What's coming next? An homage to Galaga? Phoenix?