Gods of Nibiru - a shmup genre gem, if a bit unpolished.
Gods Of Nibiru (GON) is an arcade type shooter (shmup or shoot them up) game for iPhone. It is not free, it costs $0.99 on App Store, but it is well worth it. As you would expect from a paid game, there are no annoying in-game adds, although you can spend more by buying in-game so called packs, which would reduce difficulty, but is by no means necessary.
There are quite a few shmups on App Store, and you might think you’ve seen it all, but there a few unique features in this game which stands out.
When game starts a tutorial is offered. It introduces player to the game controls and main concepts. I give a huge plus for the tutorial. It is brief, not tiring and to the point.
The best part of this game to me is combining ship hulls and its modules in various different arrangements. This feature set together with the checkpoint system brings a lot of joy enabling to try out different combination of hulls, shields, weapons and power-ups. If you get stuck somewhere, or simply want to try out an unknown weapon, you can do so without any loss.
This is how it works. Dark Energy is the main game’s currency. You collect it when enemy ships are killed. It can be spent on various ship hulls, power-ups, shields and weapons. Each hull has different number of such slots. The best part of it is that when you want to try some other module instead of an old one, you can sell it without losing any of the hard earned Dark Energy points.
Next thing worth mentioning is game controls. It might seem disappointing at first that only virtual joystick is available instead of highly praised relative touch controls. But relative controls would not work in this game, unless other features would be sacrificed. You need to be constantly tapping the screen to target enemy ships for your secondary weapon (e.g. self-guiding missiles). Other games solved this issue by allowing relative touch for ship control on half of the screen, while other part of screen is dedicated for advanced weapons or other features like swipe action for landing. It is not the case here, as you can move around the whole screen and fire secondary weapon at any direction. And this is not all, you also have another joystick on the other side of the screen to aim your main weapon, as you might want to aim it at an angle. This way enemy gunfire can be avoided by positioning spacecraft in some place other than directly in front of an enemy ship.
Each game level is divided into many checkpoints. If you die, you return to the last checkpoint. It even suggests if you want to keep the set-up of the ship you have made after the checkpoint. As expected this game has bosses. There is always one strong boss at the end, and sometimes a weaker one somewhere in the middle of each level. When level is completed statistics are shown and new upgrades unlocked.
Apart from upgradable ship hulls and other items, there are few upgradable skills too. It is possible to improve HP size, speed, shield capacity or weapon damage. Unlike other items, these skills can’t be undone. Once you have applied them, you are stuck with them forever. This is probably the reason developers, Eligo games, claim having implemented RPG elements. I don’t think this is the most important feature, but it might influence how easily victories can be achieved.
Graphics quality is higher than average. It looks polished and well done. I enjoyed differently drawn shields, especially the top tier shield with Crysis’esque hexagonal pattern to it. Projectile patterns and ship movements look smooth and gracious.
Music and sounds are not hindering game experience either. Music is somewhat energetic and motivating to push forward. If it becomes tiring, it can be disabled. Other sound effects are enjoyable too. Nevertheless there are some minor details which might have been polished better. I particularly don’t like the sound made by upgrade purchases or sales. I think the sounds that accompany these actions should be swapped around, as when you buy and fit a new weapon, it should not make an “error” type discouraging sound.
One thing I’m disappointed with game’s visuals is the icon. It is not the reason to decide if you want the app or not, if you know what the app is about, but way too many good apps get ignored because of visual representation. GON’s icon is too clogged up for my taste. I like clear and sharp images. Greyish black starship on the black background, really? The stars, nebula, jet fumes, or whatever it is behind the ship, is not helping it one bit.
Another thing that could be improved is mid-level bosses. They seem to be too easy. It takes couple of seconds to defeat them.
Other improvements could be done too, like it could show damage per second instead of one projectile damage statistics in the weapon purchase screen. As it is not always easy to decide which weapon is better, apart from relying on weapons price.
The game is integrated to Game Center. When finished the whole game on one of the three difficulty levels you can check your score compared to others.
Although there are areas which could be improved, the game is professionally crafted and provides with hours of enjoyment. If you are the tinkering kind who fancies experimenting with various weapons and defence systems for achieving best results against various enemies – this game is definitely for you. If you are shmup fan, I think you will not be disappointed either. For casual gamers, the gradual learning curve will keep them involved and satisfied. I would rate Gods of Nibiru 8.5 stars (out of 10).