24
Oct
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Sidescrolling / top-down space shooters are nothing new - but really good ones are still, like any good game, worth pointing out. I went into Sector Strike, by Clapfoot, with high hopes - they made the now-Android-classic Tank Hero. And while Sector Strike is a pretty good game, odd control choices, repetition, and in-app purchases make this free-to-play title a short and predictable love affair.

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The Gameplay

Sector Strike plays like almost any other spaceship sidescroller: you shoot enemies continuously with a bunch of lasers and other sci-fi age goodies that come out of the front of your craft like the contents of a psychedelic new year's party popper.

The controls are fine, but for one major flaw: releasing your finger causes your ship to stop shooting. Why? There's no reason for it to stop. All too often I reach the edge of the screen, and die because the touchscreen no longer detects my finger.

The gameplay cycle is familiar to anyone who has experienced the genre before: shoot, collect power up, shoot, avoid inexplicably slow-moving energy dots of death, shoot, shoot, collect more power ups, rinse, repeat 100 times.

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Each level, collecting each upgrade "token" dropped by enemies grants you a new weapon, and getting hit causes you to lose all those weapons. When you have max number of weapons (4 total), though, tokens get you credits (currency) instead of gunnery. Missing out on this by not being maxed hurts you in the long run, because you can't go back and repeat levels, and the number of credits earned per level seems almost random. So, I just usually kill myself if a level hasn't gone well, restart, and try again, since you get to keep your credits even if you die.

You can upgrade your weapons with currency, acquire consumables, and buy passive abilities, the most expensive of which gives you a 10-second invincibility bubble. It costs $10 worth of in-game currency.

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One thing that truly bugged me is that you don't simply get in-game currency by destroying enemies. You have to fly your ship into the occasionally resulting gold balls, which makes monitoring enemy fire yet more confusing, causing you to put yourself in harms' way to make each level count, and simply puts your focus in too many places at once. You end up dying because you cannot mentally track all the dangerous objects on screen with your eyes at once - and that hardly seems fair. I can only imagine how bad it gets in the later levels.

Difficulty ramps up quickly, and purchasing in-app currency is going to be alluring for most casual players pretty fast. Without spending any money, I made it to sector [level] 30 (I think there are about 200 (!) such "sectors") before becoming agitated at the game, which did take a couple hours. And I did - mostly - have fun getting there. Up until the end, when it started to feel more tedious than challenging. As to replay value, well, I can't see any, if you ever actually beat it.

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The Other Stuff

There's no story here, nor does Clapfoot try to make one. You have a rank - that's about as far as the character immersion goes.

The graphics are great. On my Nexus 7, the weapon animations are bright and pleasing, the explosions explosiony, and the sound effects satisfying. It does vibration feedback, too. For a spaceship sidescroller, the level of involvement and visual/auditory satisfaction during the actual gameplay experience is fantastic. I experienced no bugs, either. Hats off to Clapfoot for the technical achievements - especially considering they wrote their own game engine.

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The music is decent - nothing mind-blowing. And, as with most games, I tend to prefer my own soundtrack, or none at all.

Should You Play It?

Yes. Is it worth trying out to kill 30 minutes, or every once in a while when you're bored? Sure - and that's reason enough to give it a go. Is it going to give you any sort of emotional payoff after 3 hours of playing? Not really. Sector Strike moves you forward with almost no sense of accomplishment (aside from arbitrary "ranks" and a kill count number). At 16% through the game, I'm done - I have no desire to continue playing, and will happily go back to some of my other Nexus 7 gaming mainstays. It's possible I'll pick it up again in the future, but I kind of doubt it - I'm pretty burned out, and hopping back into the game at this difficulty just doesn't sound fun.

Like so many free-to-plays, it's hard to ignore the feeling that it seems like Sector Strike wants to get you on the hook long enough to fork over a few bucks (or more), and then doesn't really care where you go after that. That feeling is made even worse by the fact that there isn't any real goal to work towards in Sector Strike, no great mystery to solve, no competitors to best. It's a pity, considering what a technically impressive game this is.

But alas, this is the direction the mobile gaming industry seems to be going. I just can't say I, as a gamer, will ever feel alright about that.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1259743098 Alex Tayra

    good, honest review. I like reading this much more than "definitely-not-paid-artciles".

    • defred34

      whats that supposed to mean?

  • Abhigyan Banerjee

    This reminds me of the classic MS-DOS game Stargunner by Apogee. Stargunner used to be one of the de-facto standards against which other similar games were compared. *nostalgic sigh*

  • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

    Are you sure there's vibration / haptic feedback on your N7, and it wasn't just the speakers..?

    Unless there are more hardware configurations than I know about (can't speak for the I/O version) this was one of the "standard" features Google and Asus cut from the N7.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      hah, yeah, I meant it supports it. Obviously no vibration on the N7.

      • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

        OK. For a few minutes there you got me all paranoid! Lol

  • Boyen

    I agree with some of your points, but about the gold balls you need to collect. There's a passive skill (cheap) that pulls them towards you. Only a single investment means you will get all gold balls of every level. Maybe this should've been on by default but at least it is there.

  • superman

    Ive made it to level 60 without spening money hopefully I can keep it that way... BTW level 60 is insane these rockets keep following me lol

  • superman

    I forgot to mention im using the note 2 s-pen I think its easier than ur finger esp if your a lefty

  • Cataclysmix

    i'm glad it's more difficult and you can't redo levels, otherwise you'd be done with the game in a few hours. li'l tip: good place to stop and collect cash is lvl 68.. v easy to collect 1000 per game, from lvl 70 on the enemies are much tougher, and their bullets get faster, plus you drop down to get'n 200~ish per game.

  • Cataclysmix

    ooh lol, just realised, it's not level 70, it starts again from level 01, but with harder enemies

  • Michael

    Funny that you complain about having to pick up the credits and fight the enemies. Poor baby. Maybe you could ask your big brother to beat the rest of the game for you. Baby.

  • kbend

    I stopped at level 58 of hardcore mode in order to farm credits. Up to 2000 each time. Maxed out everything and it makes insane mode pretty easy. Helpful tip, if you can make it there that is. 0$ spent on in game purchases btw. Love this game.

  • Phishman46

    I am on level 6 in Insane Mode and haven't spent a penny. Some of the downsides in this review are exactly why I like it. Having to think about more than one thing while playing, what a novel idea? I don't own a gaming system and I have one other game on my phone but this game is addicting and I am geting through it without spending money. Perfect!

  • dir

    I think the review is spot on. Should have more story and some special enemies at least for area chnges..

  • Cataclysmix

    i did stop at 58 to farm credits, but kept accidentally beat'n it, ..so instead i farm'd credits at 60.. so's i know when the end is.. just die on the boss. don't get as much as 58, but don't have to worry 'bout accidentally beating it. So far highest i got is lvl 58 on insane x2. One thing that would be nice is a few avatars. When i've felt like start'n again, i've had to re-install the game. Other than that.. ace game. beautifully done, very responsive. just a tad annoying - the shield is bigger than the ship, so when you're in a spot where you won't get hit, the shield does, but you get used to that.

  • Almost Perfect

    This game can suck some eggs. Insane level 57 is just out of control hard. Been stuck here for weeks now. Other than that though, it's been pretty good

  • cataclysmix

    I meant Endgame X2 level 58..

  • MtnMan

    I haven't spent a dime and am on endgame x5 sector 4. It's a good game to kill ten minutes with here and there. save all your credits for the last two or three sectors and don't waste accrued credits on the ship skins that is the one lousy part of this game. Otherwise high marks!

  • darrell

    No money spent and im in X10 now on insane mode lol

  • John Jacob

    Totally awesome game.. Currently reached only sector 23. But LOVE this game

  • joesmith

    The game has 60 levels then repeats.
    It takes a while to get credits without paying. You have to for through level 50 before you can get to kill ships worth enough to buy shields.
    Best way to gear up is to stay at level 55 to 58 to rack up credits.
    the shields only refresh one second faster with each level.
    Mine are at level 3 and refresh in 8 seconds.
    Mine are at level 4 and refresh in 7 seconds.
    On insane extreme mode X1 mode one. (about level 5 or 6 ... lost track)
    Probably makes up levels forever.
    4 or 5 trips through the game.
    Well worth the zero dollars paid to play.