Touchscreen devices shouldn't really be able to handle fast-paced 2D shooters, but the fact bullet-hell titles from developers such as Cave and Llamasoft have worked so well on iPhone and iPad mean we're more than happy for logic to be defied.
Developer Playbean believes that its latest iOS title, Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey, is one of the better shooters on the App Store, and the game boasts a large number of levels, difficulty settings, and upgrade options to back up that claim.
Song In-Hyeon, project director at Livezen (who helped develop the game), spoke to us about how Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey has been developed to appeal to a wide audience, what shooters inspired its creation, and what the future holds for the game.
A real blast
The main challenge when designing a shooter for modern smartphones is making the touchscreen controls responsive enough to assure you that you can avoid the many bullets that come your way. So long as your reflexes are up to the task, of course.
"Playing games without your usual controller can feel uncomfortable because you don't get the instant reaction of pressing a button," In-Hyeon admits. "Therefore, we have tried to make the interface easy to adjust so everyone can feel comfortable playing the game for the first time."
In-Hyeon is also keen to emphasise that you can raise or lower the level of challenge in Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey to make sure you never feel too much out of your depth.
"We thought that having a variety of difficulty settings is essential for appealing to a wide group of players," he says. "There are many different ways to play the game, and we believe it caters to every skill level."
The controls weren't the only challenge the development team had to overcome, though. Indeed, the real struggle was designing a game for a device that doesn't possess the power of a home console or PC, In-Hyeon concedes.
"The real challenge was to optimise the game for the mobile platform," he says. "Due to the fact that these mobile platforms have limited power compared to PCs, there were always limits to what we could achieve in the development environment."
Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey is made by people who are long-term shooter aficionados, and In-Hyeon is eager to list the influences that helped shape the game's development.
"We used our experiences of playing several shmup titles during the planning stages for the game," In-Hyeon says. "Taito's RayStorm and Psikyo's Strikers 1945 were two games we looked to for inspiration, with the design plan also being inspired by shows and films such as Star Trek and Starship Troopers."
Playbean has also learnt lessons from development on its own titles, mainly the Astrowings series. In-Hyeon tell us that Space Odyssey improves on its predecessors in several areas thanks in part to this experience and acquired knowledge his team can draw upon.
"First of all, much of the on-screen information wasn't necessary on a small display, so we've made a point to remove unnecessary elements that may have been bothering people," In-Hyeon says.
"We have also altered the Auto-HP Recovery System,"In-Hyeon adds. "If you died in the first game, you had to start from the beginning of a stage, but that didn't make the experience very enjoyable - games must be fun. So, in Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey, there's an ability you can utilise so that your craft will be cured automatically even though you've been attacked and lost all your HP."
It's just a shot away
In-Hyeon tells us that he is both proud of the way Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey turned out, but there are still plans to improve the game.
"I do think the point of updates is to sync the game up with the player's expectations, so we've done research and taken data from users reviews to help shape how we move the game forwards," In-Hyeon says. "For instance, we've considered updates to make the Survival and Mission modes different from other titles'."
Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey has landed on Android as well, although it's only available in Korea's T-Store at the moment.
In-Hyeon does reveal that his team are "working on adjusting the game and bringing it to the Google Play Store as soon as possible", mind.
Astrowings 2 - Space Odyssey is available on iPhone now, and is free to download [iTunes link].