Highwind

I’m planning on looking at more IGMC games, but first, let’s take a look at a game type I haven’t wrote about yet: a mobile game. Besides, when I started taking blogging more seriously, I promised myself that this blog wouldn’t just become an RPG Maker enthusiast site and with like a month of that ahead, I need something to prevent my dark future from happening.

We’re looking at Highwind, a dollar game on the App Store that’s made by Selva Interactive, who you may remember as the people behind Nanuleu. For disclosure, the studio and one of its developers followed me on Twitter, which is how I learned about it. However, I got and chose to review this game out of my own volition, because it looked like something my speed.

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Highwind is a sort of different take on a shooter, the dodging and shooting aspects of the genre divided up into two separate sections. In the first section of a level, you are stationary but capable of shooting, which is then followed up by a section where you dodge stuff, but otherwise helpless; unless you’re playing with a certain playstyle, in which case, you only get a longer version of the first section.

As you’re stationary in the shooting sections, downing enemies is more of a matter of timing than anything. Tapping the right side of the screen fires, with a bar dictating how much you can shoot at a given time, emphasizing timing your shots over firing like crazy. Meanwhile, as you can’t dodge enemies, you get a shield that you can control with the left side of the screen, with similar management to shooting. Timing when to shield is initially easy, but in later levels where enemy shots are more relentless, timing becomes more about management so that you don’t run out and get hit.

Then come the dodging segments, which come in three quick to play varieties. You tap the left and right parts of the screen to shift around, dodging obstacles. If you get hit, you don’t lose health – rather, you lose some of the coins that you got from shooting enemies from the previous segment.

The brief dodging segment then goes into a shopping menu. You use your coins to buy health, shot and shield upgrades for your plane. I  recommend focusing on maxing out your shield as soon as possible, because I really can’t imagine doing the end game stuff without maxed out shields. Also, at the end of a world, you’re given a short level where the goal is to break some orb, which gives you perk list to choose from that includes things such as having shields absorb bullets to increase your ammo or making your projectiles capable of hitting two enemies in one shot.

Also in the shop menu, you can use your coins to heal. Why is there no between level healing? It’s because Highwind is an endurance test. Rather than being a game where you take stages on individually, it’s a game where you have to go through as many of the stages as possible in one go. Lose all of your health? Gotta start over from the beginning, no upgrades or anything.

After a run, your score gets added up to a meter and upon passing a threshold, you unlock different things to play around with. One type of unlock lets you start out with a different ship that gives different starting stats while the second unlock type gives you different modes, or, play styles. I personally prefer the laser play style, which replaces your normal shots with an instant but ammo-inefficient laser beam; it’s real fun to use combined with that perk that lets you hit two enemies.

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So, the presentation of the shooting sections of the game is a nice take on the genre, stressing resource management and timing. The game plays around with the timing aspect by placing all sorts of objects on screen, such as a rotating arrow that redirects your shots to wherever its pointing to a sort of energy field that slows/speeds up the shots of your ship’s and the enemies depending on which way it’s pointing, which throws off your ordinary timing of shooting and shielding. Later worlds go on to screw with you with more enemy types, like planes that randomly warp ahead in their path, ramping up the challenge and keeping things fresh.

(Those manta ray-like ships with their own deflecting shields can fuck off, though.)

I just kinda wished that the dodging segments that happen after them were just as unique or got harder as you progressed. There’s the variant where you control two planes at once, but there aren’t any curveballs thrown at you after that in the terms of more mechanics or more difficult patterns. If these segments got any harder later in the game, I honestly didn’t notice.

The stylings definitely reminds me of Nanuleu with its bright minimalist visuals and calm instruments on top of increasingly frantic gameplay. It’s a contrast that I really enjoy and I guess is something that I can expect from Selva Interactive. Its aesthetics also sort of feels fitting for the platform, its design reflecting the sleek and clean style that Apple tries to position itself with.

Highwind is a pretty neat iPhone game and while I wish that there was more to the dodging segments, the overall experience is still pretty enjoyable and it’s hard to argue against its reasonable $0.99 price. A version of the game’s coming out soon for Android too, so if you have that instead of an iPhone, maybe keep your eye out for that.

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