Ion Assault HD really is a melting pot of ideas, but the trouble with presenting such variety at every given turn is that none of these ideas are given the full attention they needed to flourish into full games.
I’m usually not one to judge from my first play session, but when I unlocked a trophy in Ion Assault HD and a voice chimed out “Achievement Unlocked”, I knew that this was a fairly quick and dirty PSN version of the XBLA title. Ion Assault HD is a twin stick shooter with a core mechanic that, while visually exciting and certainly interesting, sometimes does more harm than good in the situations the game places you in.
The core mechanic of Ion Assault HD is the titular assault. By holding down the fire button, you gather up pretty particles from the area surrounding your ship, and fire them off at the enemies that swarm around you. When you first use this method, it seems exciting and unique to be charging up shots and then decimating enemies, but it quickly became apparent to me that this was the equivalent of building a catapult in a strategy game that fired away the very resources you needed to build another catapult. So, Ion Assault HD’s core mechanic involves you firing away the very thing you need to keep fighting, which turns the simple act of shooting at things into a strange resource management shooter, where you’re conscious of every shot you take, lest you fire away too much dust. It quickly became aggravating to skirt around the play space looking for more space dust to chuck away, like a child accidentally kicking away the very hoop he futilely chases.
Strangely enough, even Ion Assault knows that its core mechanic is daft and frustrating, as it abandons it in every other mode. Survival is exactly like it sounds, with the game becoming a far more traditional shooter. This was probably the most fun I had with Ion Assault, as I could just switch off and play the game without worrying about resources. Of course, the game didn’t actually tell me that Survival mode was different, I found that out by selecting the mode and playing it. In fact, Ion Assault HD doesn’t tell the player much at all, with the in game tutorial providing little in the way of gameplay explanation and more in the way of control tips. This problem came to a tipping point for me in the multiplayer, where the game switched genres again, becoming a strategy game. Yep, a strategy game. Abandoning even more of the game’s core mechanic, I was now laying way-points for troops and guiding them into my opponent’s base, whilst my opponent tried to do the same to me. Of course, I lost my first few rounds, as I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. If there was a separate multiplayer tutorial, then I clearly missed it, as the game didn’t explain anything to me at all. I’m all for going in blind, but when every mode of your game plays differently without a word of explanation, then something might be wrong.
Ion Assault HD really is a melting pot of ideas, but the trouble with presenting such variety at every given turn is that none of these ideas are given the full attention they needed to flourish into full games. The campaign is undone with a firing away of resources and the multiplayer unravels through the utter lack of a tutorial, with only the survival mode coming across as a game in its own right. It’s inoffensive, but with so many better twin stick shooters on PSN, you don’t really need to play it at all.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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Release Date:November 2011
Players:1-2 (Local), 2-4 (Online)