There are few iOS games that truly stand out when it comes to evoking the halcyon days of vector-based arcade games while still being relevant to the modern gamer. Such projects often make up for their minimalist graphical style with smooth gameplay and an abundance of content; both challenging feats on a platform with no tactile feedback and a reputation for holding content behind paywalls. But despite the challenges, Heavy Rockets manages to deliver a satisfying smartphone shoot ’em up experience without breaking the bank – especially if you’re good.
The basic gameplay of Heavy Rockets is divided between two modes; race and battle. At first, most of the stages are locked, but new stages can be earned by achieving certain levels of performance in the previous stages. In race mode, players compete with a few AI-controlled ships for the fastest time in a given stage. In battle mode, the player must fight and evade AI-controlled enemies in order to steal their luminescent green blocks and drop them back at base. These blocks are the only way to unlock new ships, which is where Heavy Rockets‘ in-game economy comes into play – for better and worse.
Heavy Rockets controls tightly and offers two enjoyable game modes. And to top it all off, its structure as a free game is very well done. Ads are always optional, granting you premium currency or ammunition refills for your special weapons when you choose to watch them. If you’re smart with your special ammunition and are in no rush to unlock all the special weapons, it’s very conceivable to play without watching a single ad. Paired with an affordable no-ad option and the ability to unlock all ships and special weapons using real money if desired, the game extends good options for progression to every member of its playerbase whether they aspire to play at their own pace or start setting records on the leaderboards right away.
The only real downside is that green cubes – the only item that helps you access new ships without spending real money – are only gained in battle mode from what I’ve seen, so the incentive to play race mode is markedly lower for a free player until their hangar is full.
But despite this small inconvenience, Heavy Rockets provides an addictive and fully-featured smartphone shmup with tight controls and an admirable free-to-play model.