Aesthetically speaking, you could hardly confuse the output of Radiangames with that of Llamasoft: coated with a crisp, contemporary sheen, Luke Schneider’s games are a world away from Jeff Minter’s comfort blanket of retro standards suffused in a gently psychedelic haze. Yet Schneider shares much in common with his camelid-loving counterpart; both are one-man studios plying a prolific trade on the App Store after only minor successes elsewhere, and the pair share a similar desire to offer a personal spin on familiar ideas.
In the case of Ballistic SE, it’s the twin-stick shooter. Radiangames’ previous iOS release, Fireball SE, mined Geometry Wars’ Pacifism mode for inspiration, prioritising avoidance over ordnance, but here you have the opportunity to fight back against the enemies that swarm over the gridded play area like neon-lit bacteria. The kill tally required to finish each wave steadily increases, as does the pace, and it’s an onslaught from the off: Schneider begins with his foot on the accelerator and only pushes down harder as you advance. Temporary respite is available via ballistic mode, a button-press temporarily slowing the action, affording you the opportunity to slalom through packed crowds to trigger bombs that destroy anything in close proximity.
Every fifth wave offers a selection of enhancements, the choice of which informs your play style. Focus on homing shots and the second stick is rendered all but irrelevant; charge your ballistic meter and you have a more regularly available get-out-of-jail-free card. High-score chasers, meanwhile, can boost the score multiplier for killing enemies. Only the mine-dropper feature seems mildly overpowered: pair it with homing shots and you can move within a tight circle to near-invulnerable effect. Elsewhere, a range of two-minute challenges delivers an even more intense hit of arcade pleasure.
Schneider’s presentational style may be a little sterile for some tastes, but while his games may not have the same force of personality as Minter’s, he demonstrates an equally astute mind for augmenting existing genres. Here’s hoping both studios continue to find a space for their work among the increasingly crowded shelves of the App Store.