Developer: Born Ready Games
Strike Suit Zero impressed and disappointed in equal measure (read the review here). The breakneck thrill of howling through the void in a transforming mech-fighter cannot be denied, yet the woefully derivative campaign was all too willing to marginalise its wonderful war machine. All too often, a cutscene would obnoxiously kick in just as a furball was getting interesting, or a pathetically underpowered capital ship required you to become a babysitter rather than ace pilot. Generic talking heads blithered through a cliched story that sidelined your role in the action, and bizarrely, you frequently had to leave your glorious Strike Suit in the hangar in favour of a boring factory edition fighter. "Space Combat Reborn" was the promise, but Space Combat Rehashed was the end result, a game that played it far too safe and conventional when it came to the crunch.
It's a shame, because SSZ had all the ingredients for a fresh and vibrant space shooter. Responsive and empowering action. Gorgeous visuals. Epic art design courtesy of Junji Okubo. And, you know, a space fighter that turns into a ruddy great mech at the drop of a hat.
Strike Suit Infinity repackages these core components into a tight score attack game where you, and your lovely Strike Suit, are always the star of the show.
There's no story here, or even the barest hint of narrative. Instead you'll pick from one of three ships (all of which have Strike Suit functionality, which is already an improvement) and head into a selection of eighteen deep space sandboxes with increasingly powerful waves of enemy squadrons to destroy, and leaderboards to shoot for. If a little on the functional side, this pure score attack focus really helps the unique and exciting mechanics to shine.
Controlling your fighter is relatively simple arcade sim fare. Using mouse/keyboard, flight stick or Xbox 360 controller commands (some rebinding will be necessary on console controllers to bring it in line with existing arcade flight sims), you'll roll, jink, boost and loose devastating salvos of technicolor missiles that would make Bangai-O blush. Keeping an eye on your recharging energy level is critical, as is triggering missile-vexing EMP blasts at exactly the right moment, but traditional dogfighting is generally accessible and empowering after an initial learning curve.
However, Strike Suits are far from traditional. Much like the transforming planes from Macross or Robotech (pick one, they're effectively the same show), your versatile fighter can reconfigure into a powerful mech form for a limited time. The ability to strafe in 3D space and quickly decimate entire swarms of enemy interceptors makes for a uniquely satisfying experience, but getting the hang of the controls requires a lot of practice.
Practice that, unfortunately, you won't get in the tutorial. Though Infinity manages to convey the basics in its workmanlike introduction, many newcomers will find themselves utterly unable to make the most of their mech, and even space sim veterans will need time to adjust to an entirely new and somewhat counter-intuitive control scheme. Of course, practice in the earlier waves make perfect... and there's a case to be made that Infinity already has a comprehensive tutorial in Strike Suit Zero.
Once you've mastered the learning curve and put in the time, though, Infinity makes the most of Zero's foundations. Blasting fighter formations to bits, bombing capital ships into oblivion and activating mech mode to strafe around targets is always a visceral delight, brought home by Okubo's trademark ship designs, colourful effects and lavish backgrounds. Working out how best to approach each wave to maximise your high score carries a pleasing amount of strategic depth in and of itself, but better yet, you can accrue resources to deploy allied squadrons and capital ships of your own. Not only does this add another tactical dimension to what would otherwise be a purely reflex-based score attack , but it also means that you're finally calling the shots. Even though, sadly, the idiotic AI hasn't received an upgrade.
Critically, you and your Strike Suit are always centre stage, making the big decisions and engaging on your terms. After feeling like a minor cog in the machine in Strike Suit Zero, this newfound power and importance is intoxicating.
The lack of story and a robust unlock system may annoy some players, and for a score attack game, it's odd that you're not dynamically informed about your friends' and rivals' best scores. This would have made competition so much more fierce and relevant, compared to simply seeing your friends' scores on the round select menu before each match (or browsing the leaderboards via the main menu). Infinity is also unavoidably repetitious (it comes with the score attack territory), to the point where you'll likely seek another diversion after a few hours.
But you get what you pay for at the end of the day. Born Ready Games may have yet to deliver 'Space Combat Reborn,' the superior space sim I'm convinced they can make, but for £5 you can't go far wrong so long if you enjoy the genre.
- Visceral arcade space sim action with none of the bumf
- Addictive score attack gameplay and versatile reinforcements mechanic
- Eminently affordable at £5
- Counter-intuitive mech controls required a stronger tutorial
- Lacks dynamic score updates and robust unlock system
- Repetitious; very limited in scope and long-term appeal
The Short Version: For £5, it's hard to quibble with a few enjoyable hours of arcade dogfighting in the wild black yonder. Worth an instant download if you're a fan of space sims, score attack and all things Mecha.