No Stick Shooter ($1.99) by Happy Robot Games is a retro arcade shooter that will take you back to the days of Missile Command. If you liked old-school arcade games like , but want something more challenging, then you will love what No Stick Shooter has to offer.
When I was a kid growing up, I remember having an old Windows PC with classic games already installed on it, such as Asteroids, Tempest, and Missile Command. I would spend hours on these types of games, because what else was I going to do with my time? Because of this, I grew a love for arcade games because they would prove to be challenging and I liked to see if I could beat my own previous score each and every time. With the iPhone and the introduction of the App Store almost a decade ago, I have been on the lookout for great new arcade games that I could take with me wherever I go, and one of my favorite genres of arcade games are shooters. But let’s face it — dual stick shooters are fun and all, but the concept gets a bit tiring after a while, and even I need a break from them every now and then. So when I saw No Stick Shooter on the App Store, I was intrigued by the idea of a Geometry Wars-like game that does not follow the standard formula of two virtual joysticks for controls. If you’re seeking a challenge, then No Stick Shooter doesn’t disappoint.
Visually, No Stick Shooter has an aesthetic style that strongly reminds me of Geometry Wars, and that’s because of the various geometric shapes that are used for the enemy ships that fast approach you. The game takes place in space, so you have a rich galactic backdrop that has vivid hues of blue, red, and even green, that are mixed in to a gradient coloring with pitch black darkness. The bright neon lines and shapes that make up the enemies that you’ll be facing off against contrast nicely with the dark backdrop, and there are plenty of nice particle effects when it comes to the explosions that you’ll be seeing on screen. Your ship sits alone at the bottom of the screen, in all of its bright white light glory. The icons that dictate the type of weapon you are equipped with are easy to recognize from a glance, and even when things get hectic in the game, at least all of the chaos looks beautiful. There is a adrenaline-pumping EDM soundtrack that is rather fitting for the pace of the game, and the sound effects are fun to hear.
Since No Stick Shooter is an arcade shooter at its core, it is level based and players must progress through the stages in a linear order. At the moment, the game has 30 levels of increasing difficulty, and there are three boss fights to go through, so there will be a boss after every 10 stages. While the main objective of each level is to get rid of all of the enemies before you die, there are also three side goals on each that you can see before you start. These missions involve getting a certain number of points, not taking any hits, and more. While 30 stages may not seem like a lot at first, the game is relatively hard and some stages will definitely take more than one attempt to complete. Plus, if you are a completionist, or just like to chase after high scores, then there is a lot of replay value in No Stick Shooter.
The controls in No Stick Shooter are what set it apart from other arcade shooters, which are usually dual stick. Instead, you control a stationary turret at the bottom of the screen that is protected by a few shields that are able to withstand a few hits if need be, but will have to recharge once the current supply is depleted. Your turret is unable to move around freely, so you are stuck at the bottom. However, you can tap anywhere to shoot, which also serves as your aiming mechanism. While you can shoot as often as you’d like, keep in mind that your turret only has a limited amount of energy, and if you fire off too many rounds in quick succession, your energy runs low. While you can still attack while low on energy, the damage you deal will be decreased significantly, so you have to manage your resources wisely in order to be successful. As you play, you’ll gain new weapon types, and you can switch between the weapons at any time by tapping on the one you want in the left sidebar. Some weapons, like the Lightning, require you to long-press on the screen in order to be effective.
If you want to do well in No Stick Shooter, then you’ll have to observe and learn the various behaviors of each enemy, as well as master the strengths and weaknesses of your weapons. And with the limited energy supply of your turret, your timing and precision matters. While your shields can protect you from a certain number of hits, once it is depleted, you do have to fend off enemy attacks long enough for it to recharge, which gets a little tricky once things get more hectic.
I’ve only just started playing No Stick Shooter recently, and despite the high difficulty of the game, I am finding it to be rather enjoyable. I love the retro aesthetic design, because it reminds me a lot of Geometry Wars, which happens to be one of my favorite dual-stick shooter arcade games. As a fan of EDM in general, I found the soundtrack to be delightful, and the sound effects and numerous explosions on screen are quite satisfying. And while the main objective is pretty straightforward, I like having the other three goals on each stage to keep things interesting, and it just means more replay value. I kind of wish that the game did offer different difficulty levels for players to choose from though, because it’s fairly difficult and definitely not something I’d recommend for casual players who may get frustrated easily.
If you’re looking for a challenging arcade shooter, then I recommend giving No Stick Shooter a try for yourself. You can find No Stick Shooter on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $1.99. There are no in-app purchases.