JoyJoy ($1.99) by Radiangames is a smooth dual-stick shooter that you will need in your game collection. If you enjoyed their other shooters, such as Inferno+ and Ballistic SE, then you are going to love what they bring to the table in JoyJoy.
While the App Store has been getting a ton of good puzzle games lately, it has been missing something as of late — dual-stick shooters. In fact, I can’t really recall when the last time I played one on iOS was, but I am reminded of the days when I spent hours on something like Geometry Wars (has it really been four years since that came out?). So when I heard that Radiangames was releasing JoyJoy, I was ecstatic for the launch. And now that I’ve had my hands on it for a while, I have to say — this is one of my favorite new games.
The visuals in JoyJoy are absolutely delightful. I’ve been a fan of Radiangames for quite some time, and I love that their art style for their games can vary (such as with SideSwype, Slydris, and their other shooters). JoyJoy features light, soothing pastel colors in the background, and splashes of vibrant and vivid color where the action takes place. The various ships in the game, including your own, are composed of simple little shapes that come to life with different movement and attack patterns, and the screen ends up becoming filled with flashy explosions that match the current color in the background, while it gradually shifts over time. Everything is animated beautifully as well, with no lag on my iPhone 5s — just a seamless and awesome experience.
Another thing I am enjoying in JoyJoy is the music. It’s an electronic beat that is quite quirky, catchy, and soothing once you get “in the zone.” The music also reacts to how well you’re doing in the game, as it will be “interrupted” if you end up running into an enemy ship or the game ends. The different sounds that you’ll hear in the game are also quite charming, from the bursts of your lasers blowing up enemy ships to the metallic clang of going through menus, it’s all quite gratifying.
There are two different game modes: Waves and Challenges. Waves are just as you’d expect — you’ll have to clear out all of the enemies in one wave to move on to the next one (24 total), which will be filled with more difficult enemy ships. Every four levels, you will unlock a “checkpoint,” so you can start from that level instead of the first one in a new game. In Challenge Mode, you will have different “challenges” to complete, with a total of six to go through (only two available at the start, the rest are unlocked). Your weapons will be limited than in Wave mode, and you have to survive for four minutes to clear it.
No matter which mode you play, the game will five difficulty levels: Relaxed, Moderate, Normal, Hard, and Expert. There are two more that you can unlock by beating the 24th wave, which are Lightning and Armored, and these are actually game changing. But of course, you’ll basically need to beat the game to unlock them.
Regardless of the mode and difficulty, things start out pretty simple in the beginning, with basic ships that just chase you around, but then you will find trickier foes that have special movement patterns and attacks. As you maneuver your way around the screen to blast them before being hit, there will also be various new weapons and power-ups that you can collect by just moving your ship over them. Each weapon has their own advantages and disadvantages, and they can be upgraded to be stronger. You can also refill your life (the dots at the top of the screen), gain speed boosts, and even gear up with a shield to take a hit or two. There are also random power-ups that can create vortexes or blast enemies within range for you, so make sure to take advantage of these items when they pop up.
The controls in JoyJoy are simple, and just what you would expect from a dual-shooter from these developers. The virtual joystick in the bottom left will control your ships movement across the screen. The one in the right will aim, and the ship will fire automatically. If you are feeling lazy, you can also just use the left joystick and your ship will auto-aim and fire. You can switch your weapon at any time with a tap of the button with the “S” on it, and the button with the “U” will unleash your “Ultra” attack. The Ultra gauge will be at the bottom, and you fill it up by collecting the stars that are dropped by defeated enemies.
I just love the fact that this is a shooter that allows you to collect weapon power-ups and use any of them at any time, as long as you have it in your inventory (unless you’re in the Challenge mode). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a dual-stick shooter where I get an awesome weapon, and then collect another one only to find out that it sucks in comparison to what I had previously, and I wish I could change back. I’m very glad to see JoyJoy implement this weapon-switching system, because I can now have a wide variety of weapons at my disposal, but I am free to choose whatever I want to use. I wish other dual-stick shooters could have a system like this.
If you’re not a fan of the default layout, you can actually change them in the game options. Additionally, you can flip the controls if you are not right-hand dominant, and if you have a MFi controller, then hook it up and enjoy the comfort of physical controls.
A dual-stick shooter game like this is definitely one of those things that you want to brag about when you get an awesome score, so it only makes sense that this has Game Center support. There are seven leaderboards for you to gloat over, as well as 15 achievements to track your progress in the game. Some of them will take some time to complete, such as “Score 10,000,000 Total,” so the replay value here is really high, as with all of Radiangames’ shooters.
It’s been quite some time since a great dual-stick shooter has come out, but JoyJoy made the wait worth it, as expected from Radiangames. The visuals are absolutely stunning in the game, the music is fabulous, the controls are intuitive and responsive, and the gameplay itself is fast-paced and challenging. The best part, though, is the fact that you can switch weapons at any time in Wave mode — it’s quite a game changing experience. JoyJoy is everything you’d want in a dual-stick shooter game, and it’s fantastic.
I highly recommend picking up JoyJoy if you’re a fan of dual-stick shooters. And even if you’re not, you should pick it up anyway because it’s wonderful. You can find JoyJoy on the App Store as a universal download for $1.99.