(NOTE: It’s very important to remember that I specifically reviewed Version 1.1 of this software, as — ideally — it’s rather likely numerous issues discussed within this review will eventually be rectified.)
Do you remember logging into Newgrounds — the internet’s Mecca for aspiring flash designers — during the early aughts to try all of the newest submissions, some of which were amazing (and some of which weren’t)? Broadside (out now, $1.99) — Lost Games’ top-down faction-based Shoot’em Up — heavily reminded me of that era, sometimes in the unfortunately worst of possible ways (but I’ll be saving that particular gem for last). Anyways, as such things should always come first, let’s now begin discussing how Broadside — and its three-way battle between different factions (theoretically vying for control of ancient space relics) — is actually played.
After first selecting from one of the three factions — which include: a super-smart amoeba hive mind, super-religious aliens, and a human empire — you’ll immediately be placed in a low-ranking ship from your side. At this point you can command the ship to fly in any given direction by tapping there, with your on-board systems firing — in theory — whenever they’re pointed directly at something attackable. Although I think your on-board systems will also currently attempt to fire at any nearby allies as well, but thankfully they seem to be immune to any barrages coming from a friendly unit.
Your ship also has a shield system that can thankfully absorb some hits before you actually begin accruing damage, which is good because — unlike the shields themselves — your ship doesn’t have an on-board repair function. You can — however — repair your ship by flying it over top of your faction’s repair vessel, assuming you can remember where the thing is currently parked (it’d be really helpful if there was a pointer for this). To help you get back to your repair center — as well as just evade enemy ships in general — there’s a boost button on your screen’s lower right-hand corner, which causes your ship to significantly speed up when pressed (among other things, but more on that later).
Using these controls you’ll fly around — sometimes running into friendly units — and overall attempt to align yourself so that enemies are destroyed, yet without also sustaining lethal damage along the way. Your reward for doing this will be that your defeated foes leave behind precious salvage, which — upon being scooped up — can be used to upgrade both your ship and weapon systems. It should be noted that many of the later vessels are massively screen filling, which means — although they take a beating better — these dreadnaughts are also especially good at be hit by nearly all incoming fire.
Anyways, now that I’ve explained the tenants of Broadside — which genuinely amount to little more than endlessly upgrading your vessel and/or arsenal — it’s finally time to begin discussing precisely why I’m scoring this game so low.
Okay — first things first — Broadside is insanely hard (in fact, early on you can often expect to die during your first firefight), yet — sadly — isn’t particularly rewarding when you finally do manage to get things right. Your opponents can — and will — pummel your ship into oblivion within seconds, yet successfully returning the favor lacks any sort of satisfactory gravitas (beyond the dropped salvage). Evading your enemies isn’t helped by the fact their AIs are extremely good at pointing those ships straight for you, and your boost button — while not necessarily malfunctioning — is designed rather bizarrely.
Your ship definitely does accelerate whenever you push that lower right-hand button, but — for reasons I can’t possibly fathom — the game also takes this as a sign you want to immediately go that direction as well. Yes — you read that correctly — you can only effectively boost in precisely one direction, which does very little to help you shake enemy ships when they’re hot on your trail (especially if they’re on the left-hand side). Seeing as how the game’s tutorial made no mention of your ship’s thrusters only working in this specific direction, I can only conclude that this wasn’t exactly how Lost Games meant for this feature to function.
Speaking of that tutorial, I can’t really be fully sure what it’s trying to say because — in a further bizarre move — the walls of text contained within move by faster than you’re likely capable of reading. What’s even weirder is that seconds after you’re asked to perform a task, without any input ever being required, a new text box will pop up congratulating you on doing what was asked (and this’ll also pass by too quickly to read). Still — despite the profoundly unhelpful tutorial, and the awkwardly placed boost button — I eventually did start making progress in Broadside, only to discover that sometimes your automatic guns won’t fire — despite your angle — for barely fathomable reasons.
However — more egregious than any of these issues — is what happens if you actually manage to stay alive for a few minutes, because even winning in Broadside can’t go unpunished (despite the fact being mind-numbingly dull should be punishment enough). After a few ship upgrades — despite the fact Broadside looks like an ancient flash-game, and even has iOS 6.0 as its minimum requirement — the game suddenly to start to shudder and slow down horribly, followed by the heat levels of your unit shooting straight up. Although I didn’t wait to see if this would reach disastrous levels — both because I didn’t want to hurt my iDevice, and because the slow down makes dodging nearly impossible — this was still very disconcerting (and never happened with far more demanding apps).
I’m not entirely sure if this was being caused specifically by how long you’ve been alive, or because the game’s poorly optimized engine can’t handle the larger dreadnaughts, but the problem is definitely there. It’s possible that Broadside is using vector graphics for everything, which would definitely explain why the problem goes away once you’ve lost your big dreadnaught (alongside all your other progress). This still doesn’t necessarily explain the undue heat spikes — compared to games with heaver visual demands — and hopefully this matter is rectified in the near future (along with some gameplay issues).
While the idea of a top-down three way space battle — delivered on iOS — could certainly be merit worthy; Broadside currently feels more like a half-baked beta, rather than a purchase worthy product (but at least there’s nary an IAP to be found within).
While Broadside certainly features salvage collecting and three space-faring factions — just as promised — at no point does the game give defeating your foes a satisfying oomph, and that’s assuming you don’t just die within seconds (which is sadly far more likely). Not helping matters are the game’s lackluster graphics, a boost button that only works in precisely one direction, exclusively automated weapons that don’t always work, all coupled with a fairly unhelpful tutorial. The truly weird part — however — is that this game, which lists iOS 6.0 as a minimum requirement, will begin shuddering — should you survive too long — and afterwards see your iPhone rapidly becoming warm to the touch. While I didn’t actually trip the system’s heat level failsafe during this oddity, I never deliberately waited around — or even survived — long enough to see if this could occur either (and have yet to see similar results from otherwise visually demanding games).