Of the three, Light Wars is by far the simplest with its less-is-more vector graphics approach. It kind of feels like a variation on Asteroids with the glowing grid arena style of Tron, and everything gets tied together in a very Playstation-like way with left and right analog controls.
Edit: I’ve never played Geometry Wars, but according to reviewers in the App Store, Light Wars is just like it
Don’t be fooled by the outward simplicity, though… underneath the minimalistic skin of this game is a pretty kickass gaming experience complete with all kinds of powerups, enemies of varying strengths, and other shmup standards such as shields to keep you from dying and bombs for obliterating everything in sight.
One of the things I like most about this game is the two-thumb analog control system. It’s really like putting your thumbs on a pair of virtual Playstation analog sticks… left side moves your little round bowling-ball-looking gun around the screen, and the right side is for controlling the direction of your unlimited ammo. I’ve spent more than my share of time with a Playstation controller gripped firmly in my hands, and this control scheme feels totally natural because it’s so well done.
The other thing that’s appealing here is that spokko just did a really nice job of putting the whole thing together. There’s a good variety of powerups to kick things up a notch, plus the top of the screen shows how many armageddon bombs you have (shake the iPhone to deploy them), how much strength your shields have left, how much time is left on powerups you’ve grabbed, and there’s also a mute button in case the 80s techno soundtrack is driving you crazy. Dropping bombs, btw, results in a really cool ripple effect that you need to see to appreciate (it’s in the video below).
Light Wars also has a global scoreboard that I doubt I’ll ever get on because (of course) I suck at it, but never say never. The game may seem incredibly hard at first, but once you figure out that constantly moving around and crashing into the geometrically-shaped bad guys is a terrible strategy, you’ll start to get better and games will last longer.
iPod music isn’t supported but as always I’m holding out hope that this will change eventually, and it doesn’t remember where you were if you have to suddenly quit the app… I’m guessing this means you’ll lose your progress if you get interrupted with a phone call, but don’t quote me on that. Some improvements that I think would be cool would be the ability to reverse the game controls – maybe controlling the gun with your left thumb would feel better? – and being able to save progress in a game would really help because things can get pretty hairy after a couple of weapons upgrades.
Even in its current and very basic form, Light Wars is still a great game that’s easy to pick up and play immediately and for just $1 it’s an awesome deal. If you’re a shmupper, you really can’t go wrong here.