Asteroids meets The Periodic Table of Elements.
As long as there have been video games, there have been parents who won’t let their children play them. Citing such aspects as ultra-violence, waste of time, and/or lack of any real accomplishment, these parents have blindly chosen to condemn the media, and for too long the children have suffered – until now. With new sci-non-fi (did we just create a genre title!?) shooter from developer Vinyl Pixels, Atom Shooter, gamers will not only have the ability to pilot a rocket armed to the teeth with futuristic weaponry, but they’ll also be able to learn a thing or two about actual, applicable science. Take that, mom!
For y’see, the gravity/physics-based Atom Shooter takes place on the periodic table with each of the 118 levels representing one of the elements found therein. For example, the first level, H, pits your pilot against a Hydrogen atom. In order to complete each stage, you must pilot your ship in a manner that rests someplace between the likes of classic shooters such as Asteroids and Yar’s Revenge, while blasting the electrons that orbit the nucleus of the atom. Helium comes second—along with more electrons to battle—followed by Lithium and so forth. Once you’ve done away with the pesky electrons, the nucleus explodes and you must avoid its components in order to survive.
You’ll be given three lives per level, and though the challenge ramps up rather quickly, your conveyance and weapons are upgradeable via points earned by destroying electrons. These upgrades will allow you to deliver a larger payload or strengthen your ship’s hull, and you’ll need them badly once you start hitting elements like Ag, or Xe. Don’t even get us started on Uuo!
Controls come in the form of a virtual joystick and represent the one major drawback within Atom Shooter. Really, it’s a major complaint across all games which utilize the same control scheme, as your thumb, without the benefit of a physical joystick, naturally wanders across the screen. This wouldn’t pose too great a threat were it not for the speed at which your ship maneuvers. Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile. This is completely doable; however, it just takes some getting used to. In fact, by the time we reached level 15, we had learned to compensate for the thrust and plan moves ahead accordingly.
EDM outfit The Phagers provides the music for Atom Shooter, but unless you’re a fan of dubstep and more than your fair share of “wubs,” this is easily mutable from the pause menu. No, the music doesn’t detract from the game, but without any sort of story it certainly doesn’t add to the drama. That is, whether or not your ship explodes in space to the sounds of dubstep or classical, you won’t feel an emotional connection to the music. It will stick in your head, though…for days and days.
Atom Shooter is not the prettiest iOS game by a longshot, but it does its thing brilliantly. Not only is the shootera great throwback to the days of the arcade cabinet, but it has the potential to be used as an honest-to-goodness clever educational tool (seriously!). This would be perfect for budding scientists to bone up on the periodic table in a fun way, or for young kids to prepare for that upcoming chemistry test without feeling the drudgery and stress of textbooks that can be dense and dull. Even gamers who might not feel a connection to science won’t be able to help expanding their horizons. With a small price tag and a surprisingly deep system of upgrades, it’s easy to overlook minimal control flaws and a so-so soundtrack.