Review: Boss Battles HD (iPhone/iPad) One Finger Shmup Action for Free

boss battlesAll too often I find myself sitting down with a new touch gaming experience only to find out the developers have thoughtlessly emulated classic control methods via onscreen representations of joysticks and buttons. Thankfully Boss Battles has none of that. This latest offering from Backflip Studios thoughtfully reexamines every concept of the classic shmup (shoot ‘em up) genre and creates an experience that is at once new, familiar, and distinctively mobile.

The conceit of Boss Battles is a simple and familiar one: Fly a tiny, laser spewing starship against waves of crunchy little critters before squaring off against massive, screen spanning bosses where pattern recognition is just as important as your reflexes. It is the mechanics of Boss Battles that makes this app such a welcome diversion from the classics. Your ship is controlled by simply dragging your fighter around the screen. As you bob and weave between baddies and blasters, you ship automatically fires its weapons. Like the control scheme, the levels themselves have been pared down to the core of the shmup experience. Battling the waves of smaller enemies will last only a minute before you reach the boss of the level. Odds are either you or the boss will be reduced to space dust in another minute. Finally, Backflip proves it knows the economics of the App Store by offering this title for free and opts for an ad supported model.


boss battles hdJust because Boss Battles is a fast playing, free game that doesn’t mean it’s short on content. Far from it. By collecting gems from every dullard unfortunate enough to cross your streams, you’ll be able to customize your ship with various main weapons and side pods, each of which is also upgradeable. Boss Battles packs eight levels featuring very different, multi part bosses with five difficulties each for a total of 40 levels. The boss is not the only unique feature to the levels. Each showcases a different crisp, colorful background and unique smaller ships making every setting feel like a visit to another part of the galaxy. Whether you’re a fan from days of Galaxian or R-Type, there are shades of many classic shooters along the way.

Those looking to sit down and sink their teeth into Boss Battles won’t find a satisfactory snack here, however. Again catering to the mainstream mobile market, Boss Battles’ difficulty is decidedly on the casual side. Hardcore shooter fans looking for the next Ikaruga should keep on walking. Even at its hardest, this game is a breeze compared to most titles of this type. With even a modicum of skill, those 40 levels will fly by in just a few hours. This is obviously a design choice as opposed to any flaw.  It is a game not just geared towards shooter fans looking for a quick fix on the go, but also to people who like the idea of a shoot ‘em up yet may have not have the skills to compete in what has become a very hardcore genre. Boss Battles does a spectacular job of providing a vertical scrolling shooter experience to those who would otherwise be frustrated by them. Integration with Apple’s Game Center provides 24 achievements for new school gamers to chase after, but the lack of any sort of online leaderboards is sure to bum out those raised on the score tracking quarter munchers of yesteryear. Sadly, Boss Battles eschews any kind of level scoring mechanics at all and instead falls back onto its gem collecting as the only method of measuring greatness. For such a retro styled game, this is a rather shocking omission.

boss battles iosBest of all,  this title runs on pretty much any iOS hardware you may have. Even with all the pew-pew and boom-boom, the only time I experienced any slow down or stutter on a 2nd gen iTouch was when the mercifully unobtrusive ad banner at the top of the screen changed. I did feel it was a little harder on the battery life than I was expecting. All those flying fancy projectiles sure do take their toll!

Boss Battles is an easy recommendation to anyone looking for a three minute fix of old school shooter action on the go. The bright, attractive graphics, easy going gameplay, free price tag, and enough variation to make you think you’re playing a series of games instead of just one combine to make Boss Battles HD a war well worth waging.

Boss Battles is free for for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad running iOS 3.0 or later via iTunes.

Boss Battles HD is also free for the iPad running iOS 3.2 or later. Get it on iTunes.

Reviewed on iOS 5.01 iPad 2 and iOS 4.2.1 iPod Touch 2nd generation.

Reviewer Rating: 4/5 Stars – Good 4star

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